The biggest headline out of Augusta so far is Chinese wunderkind Guan Tianlang who, at 14, was not only was the youngest golfer ever to compete in the Masters, but also finished his round 1-over-73, finishing ahead of last year’s champ and hovercraft pilot Bubba Watson. Better enjoy it while it lasts: The rails of China's high-speed trains are littered with the careers of ex-athletes who earn international glory and are summarily thrown aside after their playing days are over.
Even more glaring than a score that bested Arnold Palmer’s and Jack Nicklaus’s first-ever rounds at Augusta is how Tianlang is an instrument of the public relations apparatus of the People’s Republic of China.
I watched Mike Tirico’s interview with Tianlang above and was struck by two things.
(1) The bright commie-red Chinese propaganda flag on his polo shirt and (2) how Tianlang is the most talented, least interesting, 14-year-old on the planet. One reason having a 15-year-old little brother, like I do, is the crazy ideas that come from out of his mouth. Tianlang’s Xi Jinping-approved talking points about playing on the course and "having fun" (he said he was having fun three times) were as laser-precise and predictable as his Ben Chenshaw-verified putt.
Tianlang is so focused on golf that according to his mom he forgets to eat. His father says Tianlang is self-taught. There couldn’t be a better example for the world to see of an ambitious tween who trains so meticulously that he can roll with the big boys.
Journalists have touted the 14-year-old’s demeanor on the course and with the media. Not shocking at all, that’s the same compliment every Chinese athlete receives when they crash the scene, dazzling gobsmacked reporters with a focus and manners refined by the socialist’s nation expert media handlers.
Tianlang’s dynamite debut puts China two-for-two since 2012 for elite child prodigies hanging with their much older competition. At the London Olympics, 16-year-old Ye Shiwen blazed through her 400 IM at 4:28.43, a finish that slashed more than a full minute off the women’s world record and bested Olympic legend Michael Phelps’s personal record. Of course, Ye's Olympic gold was shrouded in doping allegations, but the damage had already been done. China ambushed the U.S. on the playing field yet again.
Two Chinese child prodigies felling American champions: Just the allegory that the Chinese PR automaton wants to be broadcasted to the world.