With his poised and skillful play in last year’s Masters, Chinese teenager Tianlang Guan won the respect of golf fans around the world. He also established himself in his homeland to such a degree that he recently received an award for being “a person of global influence.” It is a significant honor in China, presented during a nationally televised show that looks and feels like the American broadcast of the Oscars. The award has been given to important scientists, writers and actors. Guan was the only athlete on which the honor was bestowed this year.
Guan earned his invitation to the 2013 Masters by winning the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship the previous fall. When the slight 14-year-old arrived in Augusta for the first major championship of the year, few pundits gave him much of a chance of breaking 80 in either of his first two rounds, let alone making the cut. But the stoic lad with the exceptional short game proved his doubters wrong. Not only did he make it into the weekend play, he also won Low Amateur honors as he posted a 72-hole score of 300, 12-over par. He did not make a single double bogey over four days, nor did he three-putt a green.
But it was more than Guan’s play that impressed people at Augusta National. The young man handled himself graciously, even after being penalized a stroke in the second round of the Tournament for slow play. And his mere presence at the Masters, to say nothing of his performance, showed many of his countrymen what was possible in golf and boosted interest in the royal and ancient game back home.
No wonder they gave him the prestigious award.