NEW ORLEANS — He wasn’t that much older than the kids he tutored Saturday morning at a weekly golf clinic, showing off the swing that made him the youngest player to compete in the Masters and the smile that made him the darling of the prestigious major.
He was, though, quite a bit older than the rest of the crowd of nearly 100 fans at Lakewood Country Club that asked questions and posed for pictures, eager to get a glimpse at the teenager who starting Monday, will compete in the Zurich Classic.
Didn’t matter. This was the kind of event which you could tell he enjoyed.
“Make sure you come cheer for me next week,” he joked to the crowd.
Yes, it was Guan Tianlang, the 14-year old phenom from China whose 73 on the opening day of the Masters earned him international headlines. He is now the youngest player to make the halfway cut in any major.
Something was different, though. The young man who faced the media after his Masters triumph and another round of press conference questions Thursday at TPC Louisiana was at ease in this environment. With his father nearby, Guan took some shots on the course’s driving range.
“It’always in the sweet spot, huh?” said Carlos Carino, whose son, Carlo, is a sophomore on Jesuit’s golf team.
Jimmy Headrick, who teaches juniors the game, noticed a more relaxed Guan.
“You could see how he performs with the children, and how much fun he had,” said Headrick, Lakewood’s director of instruction. “Here’s a kid from China; his parents don’t really know the language. He handled all that real well at Augusta National.”
“But today, you got to see the real kid.”
Guan laughed when a Jesuit golfer took a quick above-the-head picture of them, a picture bound for social media.
Youth golfers asked him about his experiences with Masters champion Adam Scott and Tiger Woods.
“It’s always fun to play with Tiger,” he said to laughs. “It’s my third time playing with him... I learned a little bit. We get to talk. He’s a nice guy.”