Welcome to Teeing Off, where Devil Ball editor Shane Bacon and national columnist Jay Busbee take a day's topic and smack it all over the course. Suggest a future topic by hitting us on Twitter at@shanebacon and @jaybusbee. Today we talk 14-year-old Tianlang Guan and if overexposure on the PGA Tour could turn out to be a bad thing.
Busbee: After his halfway decent play at Augusta -- making the cut at 14, pssh, no big -- Tianlang Guan is suddenly golf's newest sensation. He's accepted a sponsor's invitation to play at the Zurich Classic, and more could be in the offing. Question is, is this a good approach for a kid so young? What say you, my friend?
Bacon: I feel like there are so many examples of young stars hitting the scene running only to flame out after the weight of becoming a star actually hits them. Justin Rose went through it, and while it turned out well for him later in life, we have plenty of names like Ty Tryon, Michelle Wie and others that couldn't keep it up. I think it is fine for Guan to play here or there, but continuing to play in these could turn out to be a negative.
Busbee: Absolutely agree, but all we need to do is look to the example of Chinese athletes in the Olympics to see that very little of this is likely in his hands. The political differences haven't yet reared up, but I anticipate them to soon. Heck, if Rory McIlroy can become the centerpiece of a political battle between Ireland and Northern Ireland, it's likely in Guan's future. Hopefully he can handle it with the grace that he handled Augusta. But that brings up a point: what, to you, is the best way to bring up a golf prodigy?
Bacon: One of my favorite things I ever heard when Michelle was struggling was the moniker that she never learned how to win. Tiger Woods, for instance, won on all levels before turning pro and it worked out pretty well for that guy, so I hope that while it's cool that Guan is getting some PGA Tour opportunities, he still goes back and wins on levels that he's able to compete, and dominate, on. To be thrown up against guys that have been playing on a different level for years is a tough way to learn, so if he stops for a cup of coffee on the PGA Tour once a year, I have no problem, but I'd hate to see him continually entering the biggest stage in golf, especially if he started to really struggle.
Busbee: Exactly. You want the guy to get a taste of what it takes to compete at the highest level, but you don't want his spirit broken. Guan seems like a levelheaded kid, as best we can tell. It'd be so good for the game of golf to keep him in the mix and, a decade from now, winning majors. Hopefully his handlers will see it the same way.