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THE LAST WORD I www.pgatour.com


GROWTH OF THE GAME SHOWS ITS EXPANSE


BY WARD CLAYTON


In April, the golf world gathered again at Augusta to celebrate the rites of spring and the awarding of the green jacket to Australia’s Adam Scott. The discussion among the game’s organizations continued on how to make golf more appealing to young players, whose numbers in the United States have declined in recent years. There were new faces to consider for future stardom on the PGA TOUR and to build on the game’s global growth. Consider the following:


◆ New hope came packaged in a 14-year old from China, Tianglang Guan, a mere eighth- grader who was the only amateur to make the cut and the youngest participant in Masters history. Guan provided a sense of maturity way beyond his years when he withstood a one- stroke slow play penalty and forged on to capture Low Amateur honors. Homework assignments came nightly, mostly English, which he speaks comfortably. Guan and Lee Westwood were the only players in the field without a three-putt on Augusta National’s scary fast greens. Guan also made the cut at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans two weeks later. “He can’t play for his high school


team


because he’s in middle school. And now he’s in the Masters. That’s pretty amazing,” said Tiger Woods, who played a practice round with Guan and whose first Masters win in 1997 came 18 months before Guan was born.


◆ Nicolas Colsaerts hails from the largely non-golf populace of Belgium. But his length off the tee brings attention to the 30-year-old


« NEW HOPE CAME PACKAGED IN 14-YEAR OLD TIANGLANG GUAN, A MERE EIGHTH-GRADER WHO WAS


THE ONLY AMATEUR TO MAKE THE CUT AND THE YOUNGEST PARTICIPANT IN MASTERS HISTORY. »


These players and more en route to the PGA TOUR are showing they are prepared to compete on the big stage immediately. The “youngest to” prefix in record books is in need of continuous updates. With initiatives such as The First Tee and


Russell Henley


the recently announced Drive, Chip and Putt Championship, there will be even more of a draw. Players age 7-15 in the Drive, Chip and Putt Championship will compete, free of charge, in three facets of the game nationwide throughout 2013 and early 2014, with the finals scheduled for the Sunday prior to the 2014 Masters at the practice facility and 18th green at Augusta National. That’s a scene that had previously only


played out in putting green daydreams. It says that maybe one day, you too can be like Guan or Thunderbear. ■


PGA TOUR ESSENTIAL GUIDE 2013 193 Tianglang Guan


“Muscles from Brussels.” He once hit a 419-yard drive on the European Tour and led the PGA TOUR in Driving Distance one-quarter of the way through this season. But don’t think he’s all brawn, as he made eight birdies and an eagle in one round of last year’s Ryder Cup.


Nicolas Colsaerts


◆ Thorbjorn Olesen of Denmark brings thoughts of Thor with his first name. He changed from first name Jacob to his middle name last year, perhaps because the 23-year- old’s nickname happens to be “Thunderbear.” And he displayed Thor-like recovery skills after enduring an auto accident the week before his debut in Augusta. A tie for sixth finish enabled him to take Special Temporary Membership on the PGA TOUR.


Thorbjorn Olesen


◆ Russell Henley has proved his ability by winning the Sony Open in Hawaii earlier this season with a record score (three 63s en route to a 24-under 256 total) and by capturing two Web.com Tour events. The 24-year-old from Macon (GA) has also shown a lighter side as he plays the guitar, often with his caddie, as he relaxes away from the golf course.


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