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China is taking a gamble on the next generation by including 14-year-old amateur Guan Tianlang in the team to take on the Asia-Pacific side at the Dongfeng Nissan Cup this week, but the teenager has already proved he can mix it with the professionals. Guan burst onto the world stage at OneAsia's co-sanctioned Volvo China Open in April when at 13 he became the youngest player ever to tee it up in a men's professional tournament. He missed the cut after rounds of 77 and 79, but impressed with his maturity and composure on such a big stage.
Next year he will be the youngest player ever to compete in the U.S. Masters, having won the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship in Thailand last month to secure his place in golf's most exclusive Major. The previous record was established by Matteo Manassero when the then 16-year-old Italian earned an invitation to Augusta in 2010 after winning the British Amateur Championship.
"I only knew last week that I would be playing and so I am delighted," Guan said of the second edition of the Ryder Cup-style Dongfeng Nissan Cup at the CTS Tycoon Club in Shenzhen, China, from November 30 to December 2.
"It will be my first time to play matchplay with professionals, but I like matchplay -- it's more fun and interesting."
Held under the OneAsia umbrella, the tournament pits 12 of China's best golfers against an Asia-Pacific select side. The visitors won 12 1/2 to 11 1/2 on a gripping final day of singles last year after the teams were level 3 - 3 following the fourball matches and 6 - 6 following the foursomes.
While many players have been marked as "the next Tiger Woods" over the years, Guan looks to be a genuine contender who has been beating players three times his age -- and size -- since he first took up the game as a four-year-old.
"Guan Tianlang is young but has created history in China golf and world golf," said Wang Jun, captain of Team China for the Dongfeng Nissan Cup.
"We want to provide him the chance to play with the best professionals from Asia-Pacific. It will be good for him and will inspire other youngsters to get to know golf and love this game -- and help promote golf in the country."
Guan has not played in any professional tournaments since his debut at the Volvo China Open, concentrating instead on training and all-important schoolwork.
"I still have to go to school and I played some junior golf in America during the summer holidays," he said, explaining that he studies from around seven in the morning to late afternoon before hitting the range."
Guan is smart enough to use the Dongfeng Nissan Cup as a learning opportunity.
"They are all excellent players," Guan said of the Asia-Pacific side to be captained by legendary Australian Peter Thomson for a second time.
"Whoever I play against will be good experience for me. I would like to learn from them."
Guan has no hesitation in saying who he would like to be paired with during this week's tournament.
"I would very much to play with Liang Wenchong," he said.
Liang, winner of OneAsia's Nanshan China Masters last month, heads a star-studded Team China that includes veteran Zhang Lianwei, considered the father of professional golf in the world's most populous country.
A four-time winner on OneAsia since the tour's formation in 2009, Liang also won the Order of Merit in 2010.
Reigning Order of Merit champion Andre Stolz of Australia leads a talented Asia-Pacifc side that includes Kiwi Mark Brown, who finished fourth in the New Zealand Open at the weekend after letting an overnight lead slip in the final round.
Guan will also be playing in OneAsia's Emirates Australian Open next week, courtesy of winning the Aaron Baddeley Junior Golf Championship earlier this year.
"I am looking forward to it," he said. "I also played in the Australian Amateur Championship earlier this year and will play again in 2013."
China: Liang Wenchong, Zhang Lianwei, Zhang Xinjun, Yuan Hao, Han Ren, Wu Weihuang, Jin Daxing, Zhou Guowu, Ouyang Zheng, Yuan Tian, Wu Kangchun, Guan Tianlang (A)
Asia-Pacific: Scott Laycock and Andre Stolz (Australia), Michael Long and Mark Brown (New Zealand), Soushi Tajima and Yosuke Tsukada (Japan), Jason Kang and Choi Jin-ho (Korea), Wisut Artjanawat (Thailand), Rory Hie (Indonesia), Nicholas Fung (Malaysia), Choo Tze Huang (Singapore)
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