Defending champion Guan Tianlang was full of praise for the Garden Course at Nanshan International Golf Club, venue for this week’s Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship, following his first look at the 7,006-yard layout in China’s northerly Shandong province.
Guan, who made headlines around the world after a stunning performance at this year’s Masters Tournament where he became the youngest player in history to make the cut at a major championship, enjoyed an early practice round Tuesday with compatriots Dou Zecheng and Zhang Jin and was bullish about his hopes of retaining the trophy he won in such fine style at Amata Spring in Thailand 12 months ago.
“It’s a very good challenge and the conditions are great,” said Guan, who turns 15 on Friday, the day of the championship’s second round. “It’s a little bit cooler here than where I’m from, and it’s playing a little long, but the greens are great and I’m feeling good about my game.”
The Guangzhou native, whose list of records includes becoming the youngest player since 1900 to make the cut at a PGA Tour event when he achieved the feat at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans two weeks after the Masters, said that playing on home soil will be a definite boon.
“I think the Chinese players will have a bit of an advantage this week with the support we’ll get out there and I hope we all play well,” said Guan. “My goal is to try and keep the trophy in China.”
Guan’s comments about the undulating course were echoed by 16-year-old Dou, who shot to prominence by making the cut at the China Open in May, becoming the youngest player in the tournament’s history to do so. Instantly recognizable thanks to his choice of headgear – he eschews the traditional baseball-style hat for a wide-brimmed bucket hat – Beijing-based Dou is a frequent visitor to Nanshan and believes this week’s winner will be the player who makes the most out of the shorter par fours.
“The long holes here are playing quite difficult, so you’re really trying to get away with pars there and then try and make some birdies on the shorter holes,” said Dou, who reached the quarter-finals of this year’s US Amateur Public Links at Laurel Hill in Virginia. “But the course is in really good shape and the greens are playing very nice. If you can get the putter working you can make a [low] score.”