BY STEVEN MUNRO

Golf Digest Middle East - - The Golf Life Inside The Ropes -

uan Tian­lang is only 16 years old, but keen golf fans will al­ready know of him. In 2013, he be­came the youngest player in his­tory to make the cut at the Masters (or any ma­jor for that mat­ter), at a barely be­liev­able 14 years of age. Guan beat Mat­teo Manassero’s record by al­most two years.

Just think for a sec­ond how in­cred­i­ble that is. Hit­ting the ball no fur­ther than 240 yards with his driver, Guan made it to the week­end against the best 100 or so golfers on the planet, and he did it while giv­ing up around 60 yards to them on ev­ery tee shot. When they were hit­ting short irons into Au­gusta’s treach­er­ous greens, he was hit­ting hy­brids.

Clearly this kid has a very bright fu­ture, and last month in Abu Dhabi I was for­tu­nate enough to re­ceive a call from Guan’s rep­re­sen­ta­tive, ask­ing whether I’d be in­ter­ested in cad­dy­ing for him on his de­but at the 2015 Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Cham­pi­onship. Well, that was one of the more straight­for­ward de­ci­sions I’ll ever have to make in golf!

We all know how strong the field is in Abu Dhabi and this year was no dif­fer­ent. Five of the world’s top 10 were play­ing, in­clud­ing num­bers one and two, Rory McIl­roy and Hen­rik Sten­son. But even though Guan is still only 16, I soon found out that he’s al­ready at ease in this com­pany. Still at school and play­ing a mix­ture of am­a­teur and pro­fes­sional events, Guan has been groomed to han­dle the big­gest stages in world golf. It would have been to­tally nat­u­ral to ex­pect a teenager on his first ever trip to the UAE to be like

golfdi­gest. com a rab­bit caught in head­lights. In­stead, I met a ma­ture golfer who is among the most metic­u­lous I’ve ever seen and who at 16, isn’t play­ing nearly as much catch-up off tee.

He’s at the age now where he can work in the gym to strengthen his physique and as a re­sult, is now hit­ting it around 285 yards off the tee. The Na­tional at Abu Dhabi Golf Club is one of the long­est cour­ses the guys play all year, but Guan did just fine. I was im­me­di­ately im­pressed by him, not just as a golfer but how he went about his busi­ness. As you might ex­pect, his work ethic is fan­tas­tic. If he’s not plug­ging away on the range, he’s with the equip­ment guys, tin­ker­ing with this and that and look­ing to get the ab­so­lute max­i­mum out of his clubs.

One thing we saw at the Masters two years ago was what a good short game he has, and it’s fair to say Guan pretty much ex­pects to hole ev­ery putt he hits. It was in­ter­est­ing to watch him on the prac­tice green, be­cause his rou­tine is even more metic­u­lous than some of the guys who have been on tour for years. He’ll start off by find­ing a dead straight putt, then he’ll work his way around the green, look­ing for ev­ery dif­fer­ent type of con­ceiv­able break and slope. On the course, Guan didn’t hole too many bombs, but he was very good from the 12-15 foot range – bet­ter than tour av­er­age I would say.

Guan may have been a lit­tle ner­vous on his open­ing few tee shots, but he didn’t show it. He was com­pletely un­fazed when I told him he was play­ing with Rickie Fowler on Sun­day. He’s played with Tiger Woods three times now. Ben Cren­shaw, Sandy

fe­bru­ary 2015 Lyle. This is noth­ing new for him.

He han­dles bad shots well, too. We went through a game plan to­gether and agreed to play to his strengths. Af­ter 27 holes, Guan was six un­der par and only two shots off sec­ond place. He even­tu­ally carded seven birdies in a 69 to add to his open­ing 70 and make the cut with three shots to spare.

On Satur­day I saw a side of him that im­pressed me even more. Af­ter shoot­ing a dis­ap­point­ing 78 to drop down the board, he got his sharpie out af­ter the round and signed ev­ery sin­gle au­to­graph in the line. You would’ve thought he shot 68, not 78. I think a lot of tour pros could learn from that.

When all was said and done, Guan posted rounds of 70, 69, 78 and 72 to fin­ish in 70th place. At 16, he can al­ready mix it with the world’s best, but he’s in no rush to turn pro. Cur­rently at school in China, he may or may not go to uni­ver­sity. I think he’s just go­ing with the flow.

There’s no doubt Guan has the po­ten­tial to be a big global star. We’re wait­ing for the first big star to come out of China, and it’s go­ing to hap­pen quite soon. When it does, just imag­ine how mas­sive it will be. A Chi­nese ma­jor win­ner has the po­ten­tial to change the face of golf.

We know what’s com­ing when Guan does turn pro. For now, he’s quite a me­chan­i­cal type of player, like a Bern­hard Langer type of golfer. When he gets a bit stronger and more ex­plo­sive, and he gains some more dis­tance, who knows what kind of player we’ll have on our hands then. For his am­a­teur golf­ing peers at least, it’s a scary thought! Steven Munro is the CEO of the UAE PGA, and cap­tained the pro­fes­sion­als in the 2014 Dubai Golf Tro­phy

Guan Tian­lang and Steven Munro siz­ing up the Na­tional course

when he made the cut at the

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