BANGKOK – Guan Tianlang, the 14-year-old Chinese prodigy, nailed nine birdies in an eight-under-par 64 to move to 14-under and stretch his lead to five strokes at the halfway stage of the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship in Thailand.
Prin Sirisommai led the local charge by moving to nine-under following a 65, after setting a championship nine-hole record with an outward 29. Australian Oliver Goss, a US Amateur quarter-finalist, later carded a bogey-free 65 to share second spot at Amata Spring Country Club in Chonburi.
Top Thai amateur Natipong Srithong, winner of last year’s SEA Games, was a further three shots back after a second 69.
Nathan Holman of Australia shot a 64 to share fifth at five-under with Lee Soo-min of Korea, last year’s runner-up, who carded a 70. Hideki Matsuyama’s bid for a third straight title continued with a 69 that left the Japanese star four-under – a full 10 strokes behind the leader.
Guan, the first-round leader with a 66, woke up at 4.30am for an early tee-time on the 10th and set off with birdies on his first two holes before picking up further shots on 15 and 17.
The slightly built schoolboy, who weighs just 56 kilogrammes, began the front nine with three straight birdies, including a chip-in on the third, and he added two more birdies at six and seven, the latter with his second chip-in of the day.
However, on his last hole, the 464-yard par-four ninth, Guan hooked his three-wood approach, chipped to eight feet and lipped out with his first putt for his only bogey in a sensational round.
“My feeling with the putter is fantastic and that’s why I’ve got a low score. I think I had 25 putts yesterday and maybe it was a little lower today, perhaps 22, as I had two chip-ins,” said ‘Langlang’, who won the 11-12 division in last year’s Junior World Golf Championships in San Diego, USA.
“I had two birdies in the first two holes and felt very comfortable after that. I just kept going and I’m happy I only made one bogey.”
Guan now has his eyes on the prizes. The Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship offers the winner an invitation to next year’s Masters Tournament, while the champion and runner(s)-up earn spots in International Final Qualifying (IFQ) for The Open Championship.
“Everyone here wants to win and go to Augusta. That would be amazing, but for now I need to focus on my game this weekend,” said Guan, who lives in Guangzhou and trains in California each summer.
“To be leading the tournament is good for me and good for Chinese golf, especially as China will be hosting the event next year.”
Goss joined the front of the chasing pack with a flawless round that included an eagle at the par-five second, where he sank an 80-foot putt from a metre off the green. The Perth-based 18-year-old, who heads to the University of Tennessee next January, is now focused on catching the leader.
“Guan must be a good player, to be 14‑under at 14 years old. I didn’t shoot those scores when I was that young.,” said Goss, the reigning Western Australia Amateur champion.
“He’s playing well, so congrats to him, but I guess maybe his composure might disappear on the weekend if the pressure starts to build, which hopefully I can take advantage of, having a bit more experience.
“I’ve driven it well the last two days. I’ve got both my shapes working, which is definitely a help with the wind being a cross‑breeze on most holes, so I think my driving is going to be important on the weekend.”
In the morning, Prin had taken centre stage with a seven-under outward nine to break the event’s nine-hole record of 30 set by Lee in last year’s opening round in Singapore.
Prin’s round took off with an eagle at the 563-yard par-five second after hitting his approach to six feet and he then fired off five straight birdies. The 21-year-old was nine-under for the day after birdies on 11 and 15, but double bogeyed the last after losing his ball following a wayward tee-shot.
“I’m not worried about setting records and I’m not too excited about my score. I’m just concentrating on my game,” said Prin, who played the course for the first time on Tuesday, like most of the visiting players.
“I’m very proud to be playing in this tournament in Thailand. It’s very good and well organised, and I like everything from the food to the hotel, and meeting a lot of international players.”
Organised by the Asia Pacific Golf Confederation (APGC), the Masters Tournament and The R&A, the championship is the world’s most televised amateur golf tournament, aired in more than 150 countries, and features two hours of live broadcast on each of the four days and a 30-minute post-event highlights show.
For live scoring, visit: https://www.aacgolf.com/scores/