The feel good story of the first round of yesterday’s Master’s was obviously Tianlang Guan.
Yes, Sergio, still looking for his first ever major championship, posted a 66. Fred Couples, who, if he were to win this weekend, would become, at 53, the oldest golfer ever to win a major championship, posted a 68. And Tiger is lurking at 2-under, after shooting 70.
But Guan, who, if the unthinkable were to happen, would be by far the youngest player ever to win a major, posted a 73, seven shots off the lead, at the ripe old age of 14. That’s right, 14. He’s in 8th grade.
For my part, I hope the kid enjoys the rest of his weekend, whether he wins or just makes the cut or, under the pressure that will mount today, blows up and shoots 85.
I also hope he gets to enjoy high school and, hey, why not college. I hope he dates and drinks beer with his friends. I hope he has friends. I hope he goes to home football games with them and stays up all night shooting the shit with them.
In short, I hope he gets to have a life.
For I can’t help think, as I watch the slight young man hit a golf ball further than someone his size should be able to, of the ghosts of teen golfing phenoms past.
Tiger’s there. Tiger who appeared on The Mike Douglas Show at age two putting against Bob Hope. Tiger who, from the time he broke onto the national scene with three consecutive U.S. Amateur Championships, seemed programmed to play golf and only play golf, nothing else, until his world imploded three and a half years ago because of a secret life the public, and presumably his wife, didn’t know he was leading. Tiger who, though he’s still only 37, seems to have been in the spotlight for nearly half a life.
Michelle Wie isn’t there in Augusta this weekend. Michelle Wie who became the youngest female golfer ever to qualify for an LPGA Tour event. Michelle Wie who turned pro at 15. Michelle Wie who, at the age of 14, competed in the PGA Tour’s Sony Open in Hawaii, where she shot a 68 in the second round. Michelle Wie who has played in only two tournaments so far this year, tying for 41st place in one and missing the cut entirely in the other.
It’s a terrible thing to be old at 37. It’s worse to be washed up at 23. I’m still betting that Tiger has some fight in him left and I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see him donning the Green Jacket again this weekend. It’s also entirely possible that Michelle Wie will, some day, live up to her immense potential.
Still, I hope they serve as cautionary tales for Tianlang Guan. There’s more to adolescence than golf.
Photo: AP/Paul Lakatos