Five Australians, including two Victorians, were in the top six as 14-year-old Chinese prodigy Guan Tianlang won the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship to set himself up as the youngest golfer ever to play in the US Masters.
Guan finished 15 under par at Thailand’s Amata Spring Country Club in Chonburi to beat Taiwan’s Pan Cheng-tsung.
Australian national Squad member Oliver Goss from Western Australia was an impressive third with
a final round even par 72 to finish at 12-under par.
Victorian James McMillan was nine under par after a final round four-under 68 to be in outright fifth place.
Nathan Holman (VIC), Brett Drewitt (NSW) and Cameron Smith (QLD) finished at six under for the championship in a tie for seventh.
When the US Masters begins next April, Guan is set to become the youngest competitor in the history of the Tournament at 14 years, five months and 17 days.
This smashes the previous record set by Italian Matteo Manassero in 2010, when the 16-year-old earned an invitation after winning the British Amateur Championship in 2009.
“I’m so excited. I’m really happy to become the youngest player at the Masters and looking forward to going there.
"I don’t know what’s going to happen there, but I know I just want to do well,” said Guan, who punched the air in delight after holing his five-foot par putt on 18 and was quickly embraced by his proud father.
“Pan really did a good job, so I just needed to focus on my game and get some more birdies and keep going.
"I knew Pan had a really good front nine, so I was checking the scores a bit on the back nine. I just thought if I got a couple more birdies I would be the champion,” said the Guangzhou-based schoolboy, the event’s first Chinese champion.
After posting earlier rounds of 66, 64 and 72, Guan started the final day two ahead of Goss. Guan, who weighs just 56 kilogrammes (125 pounds), opened up a five-shot lead with birdies at holes two and four, where Goss fell away with a double bogey.
Guan’s lead was cut to just one after a bogey on 16 but the teenager, who spends three months in Florida each summer, showed impressive composure to par the 141-yard, island-green 17th and the par-four 18th, where his 60-degree wedge shot from just off the green rolled five foot past the flag.
After inspecting the putt from several angles and wiping his face and hands, the laid-back teenager stepped up to hole the most important putt of his short career.
“I had a great up and down on the last hole. I was a little bit nervous over the putt,” said Guan, who averaged 250 yards with his driver.
“It was hot all week and it was a long course, not easy. Goss was hitting his drives 50 yards further than me and even his two-iron was 10 yards longer than my driver. However, I’ve had my mum and dad supporting me all week, and they gave me a little bit of advice so I just want to thank them.”
The Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship offers the winner an invitation to the Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club, while the champion and runner(s)-up earn spots in International Final Qualifying (IFQ) for The Open Championship.
By: Robert Grant