Guan Tian-lang will make history this week when he tees off in the 18th Volvo China Open at Tianjin Binhai Lake Golf Club as the youngest player to compete in a European Tour event, aged 13 years and 177 days.
Guan, the current World Junior Champion for his age group, will beat the record of Lo Shik-kai, who was 13 years and 280 days in the 2003 Hong Kong Open.
The talented teenager earned his place in the elite 156-man field in Tianjin by virtue of finishing fourth in the mid-China qualifying event in Hangzhou three weeks ago. Guan thought he had failed in his dream for a place in his national Open after narrowly missing out in a two-hole play-off for the third and final qualifying spot.
However, the China Golf Association then announced its list of exempt players to the event, including Wu Kang-chun, winner of the mid-China qualifier in which Guan just missed out. That meant Guan moved up one place and into the Volvo China Open.
“I really couldn’t be happier – I’m so excited right now,” said Guangzhou-born Guan. “I was really disappointed to lose out in the play-off and I thought I’d blown a great chance to make history, but then to find out I’m actually going to play is like a dream come true.
“My goal now is to be the youngest player ever to make the cut in a European Tour event, and I think if I can shoot level par or better I’ll have a good chance to do that.”
Guan started playing golf at the age of four and since then has claimed numerous age group titles around the world. He won the World Junior crown in San Diego last year by an astonishing 11 shots after a brilliant nine under par 63 on the opening day.
Guan regularly competes in international amateur events but says that his travel commitments do not adversely affect his academic work. “I don’t take schoolwork with me when I travel – I just work very hard when I’m at school in Guangzhou,” said Guan. “Actually I’m doing pretty well right now and my grades are high. My favourite subjects are English and PE.”
Alistair Polson, Operations Director of the Volvo China Open said that he was delighted next week’s event would re-create European Tour history.
“Anyone who has seen Guan play would not rule him out from making the cut – he really is a talented young player,” said Polson. “He displays a maturity well beyond his 13 years and doesn’t seem fazed by spectators or the media attention he has received.
“Being a local player I expect he will receive a lot of attention next week so I hope he does well and gives the fans something to cheer about.”
The 18th staging of the Volvo China Open takes place from April 19-22 at the stunning Pete Dye-designed Binhai Lake Course near Tianjin, 130km south-east of Beijing.