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May 5, 2013

Ken Ruggiero's Golf: What Guan can teach us

(Continued)

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — Last weekend, in only his second PGA tour event at the Zurich Classic, he again defied the odds and made the cut. Eighty-plus professionals, including pin-up players Keegan Bradley and Charles Howell III, missed the Zurich cut.

So, who exactly is Tianlang Guan and why is he teeing it up with, and outplaying, some of the best players in the world?

Well, Guan is a teenaged Chinese amateur who happens to be the youngest player ever to compete in the Masters. He earned his Augusta National invitation by winning the 2012 Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship in Thailand, competing also in that event against professionals much older than he is.

For me, this is an amazing story with a host of learning lessons to gather.

Amazingly, this young man is still so physically undeveloped that he averages a mere 256 yards off the tee. Want some prospective? The shortest professional driver on tour this season averages 265 yards per drive, nine yards more than Guan. Believe it or not, there are actually par-four golf holes on tour that this 14-year-old phenom cannot reach in two strokes. No matter.

When asked at Zurich to explain his recent success, the likeable young man stated, “I’m not too surprised. I think I did pretty good today.”

You‘ve got to like this kid.

•••

The Tianlang Guan story brings me to certain conclusions about the state of our game, some good and some not so good.

Firstly, Guan’s tour success proves once and for all the old golf axiom that “you drive for show and you putt for dough.”

Many of my readers spend their practice time figuring out how to hit their ball further off the tee, spending hundreds of dollars on new-technology drivers, trying to add five or ten yards to their drives. Even if they accomplish that objective, their handicaps are seldom affected by the change.

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