Guan Tianlang, the eighth-grader who became the youngest ever to make a cut at a major championship when he finished 58th at the Masters last month, has accepted an exemption to play in next week’s Memorial Tournament, held at Jack Nicklaus’ place, Muirfield Village.
After making history at Augusta National, the 14-year-old from China, who clearly isn’t required to go to school, played at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans and saw weekend play again. He was aiming to go 3 for 3 at the Byron Nelson Championship last week, but (finally) missed the cut after a second-round 77.
Oh, goodie! He’ll finally be at a tournament I’m covering (or I’ll be covering an event he’s playing, whatever).
“I am very excited to accept the invitation to play at the Memorial Tournament,” said Guan. “It is Jack Nicklaus’ event, and the same as all the golf fans out there I have very high respect to Mr. Nicklaus, not just as a golf legend, but also as a great person. He has been actively involved in the development of golf in China, and junior golf development worldwide, and as a junior golfer myself I appreciate what he has done to help us grow.”
Nicklaus met Guan and his parents at the Masters last month and was very impressed with the Asian Amateur champ’s maturity, according to the AP:
“He came to me and wanted to know what I felt about his education and what he should do. I said, `For the next few years, I’d let him finish up high school.’ Let’s start with that,” Nicklaus said with a laugh.
Nicklaus counseled the family to take it slowly, make sure he gets his schooling and is surrounded by friends and peers.
“His parents are trying to figure out the best way to promote his life in golf,” he said. “I said, `Let him make a few of the decisions.’ They’re very sharp people and he was very sharp for an eighth-grade kid to sit there and talk to us all down there. He’s pretty mature. But he’s still 14.”
Many have considered Guan an ambassador for the game, who can get the masses in his homeland interested in the game.
“For his country, he’s going to be the poster boy of being able to say, `Look, I can do this. You all go do it, too,” Nicklaus said.
I’ll be floored if he plays all four rounds at Muirfield. In fact, if he does, I’d say, forget even pretending to go to school, just turn pro!