Forget Guan Tianlang. Sure, he’s only made the cut at two straight PGA Tour events, but he’s old news. In fact, compared to what will happen tomorrow, Guan, a 14-year-old phenom is just old.
That’s because on Thursday, at the PGA European Tour’s China Open, Guan’s existing record for youngest player to compete in a Tour event will be eclipsed. Guan himself set that mark in 2012 when he competed in the China Open at age 13. Now, 12-year-old Ye Wo-cheng is ready to take that mantle, after Ye earned the final qualifying spot for the event.
According to the Associated Press, Ye is coached by English golf professional David Watson, who raved about the pre-teen’s ability to respond to course conditions on the fly and remain calm in pressure-packed scenarios.
"Ye's ability to listen and respond is way above the norm," Watson told the AP. "At the moment, I don't believe that Ye has too many rivals of the same age. He often wins in higher age groups, but at the same time, I know it is dangerous to speculate and we must realize he is just a 12-year-old boy."
To put Ye’s young success in perspective, one need only look at the marks he has already broken. The native of Dongguan province competed at both the 2010 and 2011 U.S. Kids World Championship event, breaking the previous tournament record by winning with a total score of 12-under-par. The previous holder of that mark was none other than Tiger Woods. No longer eligible for the U.S. Kids World Championship, Ye turned homeward to the Guandong Junior Championship … and won by a remarkable 18 strokes.
Given the accomplishments of Guan, it’s no surprise that the golf establishment finds itself looking East as another remarkable athlete prepares to take a first cut at a professional event.
"It's just amazing because when I look back, I only started playing golf when I was 11," 2012 China Open champion Brandon Grace told the AP. "I don't want to even know what handicap I had when I was 12.
"I spoke to his coach yesterday just to learn a bit of his background, but he tells me he just seems to win all the junior events around at the moment. He's also apparently a long hitter and looking at him, he's quite a big kid for 12."
A big kid with a big swing and bigger dreams, all officially getting under way in China Thursday.