Guan leads rise of young stars
Guan Tian-lang tees off in the Volvo China Open aged just 13 years and 173 days.
Following the rise of the likes of Rory McIlroy, who this week regained the world number one spot, golf is increasingly being seen as a younger man's game but that axiom will be pushed to the limit this week.
Junior world champion Guan Tian-lang is set to become the youngest player in European Tour history when he tees off in the Volvo China Open aged just 13 years and 173 days.
Golf in Asia continues to grow at a significant rate but its progress cannot match that of the Chinese youngster, who has already taken the world of junior golf by storm.
The previous record was held by Lo Shik-kai, who was 13 years and 280 days when he played the 2003 Hong Kong Open.
Things have moved on apace since then, although the Far East remains the region for growth.
Guan, who has been playing golf since the age of four and won the world junior title last year by 11 strokes, qualified for this week's event in Tianjin after finishing fourth in the mid-China qualifying event in Hangzhou last month.
"I really couldn't be happier. I'm so excited right now, it is like a dream come true," the youngster told the South China Morning Post.
"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 has played in numerous international amateur events and is set to play in the Australian Open and Australian Masters at the end of the year after winning the Aaron Baddeley Invitational in December.
He also matched 14-time major winner Tiger Woods when the pair played one hole during the pro-am event at the HSBC Champions in Shanghai last year.
The former world number one hit a four-iron to eight feet on the 212-yard par-three 17th and Guan followed him by striking a three-wood to within 10 feet.
Alistair Polson, operations director of the Volvo China Open, expects the teenager to generate plenty of interest this week.
"Anyone who has seen Guan play would not rule him out from making the cut - he really is a talented young player," he said.
"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."