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Opinion & Analysis

14-year-old qualifies for the 2013 Masters

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By Dennis de Jesus Jr.

GolfWRX Contributor

By now you’ve heard about Guan Tianglang, the teenage golfer from China who captured the Asia Pacific Amateur Championship in Thailand last weekend to earn a spot in the 2013 Masters tournament in Augusta.

At the age of 14, Tianglang will enter the highly anticipated major tournament as the youngest player in its seventy-seven year history.  For many of us non-professional golfers it is merely a pipe dream to even have the opportunity to set foot on the hallowed course of Augusta National, yet here is a 14-year-old kid from the other side of the world who isn’t eligible to watch “The Expendables” but is eligible to not only visit the famed course, but to play on it for a chance to compete for golf’s most recognizable blazer.

I think it would be easy to argue that if you were an actual tour player earning your stripes week after week, competing with the best golfers in the world and not being able to play your way into the Masters would be an example of a disappointing career.  After all, like a young athlete who dreams of winning the major championship of their chosen sport, an amateur golfer dreams of putting out on No. 18 at Augusta National and winning the green jacket. It is the pinnacle of the sport — like the Stanley Cup, the World Series or the Super Bowl. Ask any retired professional athlete who didn’t achieve the ultimate goal – it’s often one of their biggest regrets.

So how would it feel if this kid who is barely through puberty and weighs as much as a tour bag soaking wet wins his way into the big show on the merits of only one amateur tournament, doing so against a field of amateurs who are hungry and talented, but definitely not the best players in the world? If I was a tour player who is busting my tail every week against the likes of Woods, McIlroy, Mickelson and not able to crack the strict eligibility of the Masters, I may be pretty upset to see that my spot is perceivably taken by a player who doesn’t have the experience I’ve earned or even holds a driver’s license.

But look at it differently and perhaps the picture becomes a little rosier.  I would argue that having Tianglang at next years Masters is nothing but a positive. Although he may be just another amateur champion who has earned the right to compete in one of golf’s greatest stages, his story will undoubtedly be closely followed and much talked about from now until his last putt on the 18th hole, whether he makes the cut for the weekend or not.  The exposure he brings by being the youngest player ever coupled with the attraction of potentially being Asia’s next big athlete is a media magnet on both sides of the Pacific Ocean, perhaps even worldwide.  It is exposure that the sport isn’t desperate for, but it doesn’t hurt either.

Golf is growing globally, but more specifically in Asia, and having an overseas talent with the notoriety of being born in 1999 at Augusta can only help the growth of the game internationally for both the young and old.

Nowhere is this growth more evident than in China, where it is projected that there will be 20 million golfers by 2020, up from the roughly 1 million that currently participate. That’s not just a casual interest in the game; it’s an explosion of interest in the world’s most populated country. It is then no surprise that more and more big purse tournaments are being hosted in China, while at the same time golf courses are springing up seemingly quicker than a Starbucks franchise (if you want a sense of scale of the Chinese interest in golf, look up “Mission Hills” and then pick up your jaw afterward).

All this interest plus tangible proof that young golfers excelling at the game only adds fuel to the fire that China is serious about golf and is where future growth of the game is headed.  Don’t discount the idea that a golfer from China may become No. 1 in the Official World Golf Rankings in our lifetime.

As for the youth movement, it is an incredible achievement to win an amateur tournament, let alone at the age of 14. At 14, I was busy chasing girls and questioning how cool I would look with a cigarette. My dad was already playing golf and as much as he tried to convince me to play, my thought was that golf was a game not a sport, and more reserved for the old folks with weak knees and backs who would announce with a groan every time they stand or sit from a chair.  Back then, I would never touch a golf club because that didn’t help my cool factor nor could I relate to someone that piqued my interest at that age. Really, before Tiger Woods came on the scene, how could I teenager compare Michael Jordan to Fred Couples?

Tianglang will make golf cool for people his age and those younger than him.  His stardom, even if short term, will likely be enough to expose the sport to a generation of Chinese golfers who haven’t picked up a club and may inspire them to do so in the future. Couple that with the powerful funding support that the government is providing, the future and growth of the sport in China will be attributed to the success and exposure of already established golf superstars like Tiger and Rory and now upcoming talent like Guan Tianglang, who is already a winner no matter how he fares at Augusta.

So what does it all mean for the current PGA Tour player who is still trying to win his way into the Masters? It is simple. This squeaky voiced kid from China, who hasn’t yet developed the frame of a prototypical athlete, is no different from any other amateur who won and earned their way into the tournament.  But what sets Guan Tianglang apart from other amateurs competing in Augusta is having the novelty of being the youngest ever who also just happens to be from the very country that will be integral to grow the sport exponentially in the future.

This translates to more exposure, more sponsorship and more prize money for golfers now and in the future.  For the ineligible tour player, the dream of playing in the Masters may be delayed by another year but hard work and determination will still be the main objective for making it in 2014.  In the meantime, they should enjoy the fanfare, take advantage of the lucrative sponsorships (both direct and indirect) and thank this pimply-faced kid for elevating the sport to another level of public interest. If that’s a bad thing for golfers who pursue this sport as their profession, I don’t think they’re seeing the bigger picture.

Click here for more discussion in the “Tour Talk” forum. 

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Dennis lives in Calgary, Canada where golf is available (at best) six months of the year. The other six months are spent understanding the nuances of the game that make it so addicting and wonderfully frustrating. In a perfect world, Dennis would take his set of G10s and his D300S to travel the world playing and photographing the beautiful, unique landcapes of the golf world. For now, he sits at a desk and is developing an eight-layer golf ball simply called "The Tour Ocho."

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Opinion & Analysis

More Distance Off the Tee (Part 1 of 3): Upper Body Training

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If you read my previous story, Tour Pro’s Revealed: 3 Tests to See How You Stack Up, you are well aware of the fact that improving your upper body power is one of three sure ways to increase your distance off the tee. If you have not, I strongly suggest you check it out to gain some context about what is to follow and what is critical for your golf game.

Through our testing and the testing done of many of the industry leaders in golf performance, we have found that the ability of golfers to generate “push power” from their upper body is critical to maximize efficiency and speed in the swing. The way that you can test your power is simple. Sit in a chair with your feet flat on the ground. Keeping your back on the chair, chest pass with both hands a 6-pound medicine ball as far as you can. When you compare this to your vertical jump as described in More Distance Off the Tee (Part 2 of 3): Lower Body Training Plan, the number in feet you threw the ball should be relatively close to your jump in inches.

If you threw the ball and it went 5 feet, you have an upper body power problem. If you threw the ball 25 feet and jumped only 14 inches, your upper body is not the problem — you probably need to focus on your lower body. It’s not rocket science once you understand what you are looking for. What can be challenging is knowing how to improve your power once you identify a problem. That is where the rest of this article comes in. What I am going to outline below are three of the most common upper body power exercises that we use with our amateur, senior and professional golfers.

The key with any power training exercise is to make sure you are as rested as possible between sets so that you can be as explosive as possible for the repetitions. Try not to do more than 6 repetitions in a set to assure that each one is as fast and explosive as possible.

Med Ball Chest Pass on Wall

This is one of the most basic exercises there is for developing upper body push power. Make sure your feet are about shoulder-width apart and don’t be afraid to use your legs to help maximize the punishment you deliver to against the wall!

Med Ball Wall Ball

Watching the video, you may be scratching you head and wondering why this is in the upper body power article when clearly the athlete is using his legs. The reason is that in the golf swing, power starts with the legs.

Med Ball Sky Chest Throws

This one is simple. Laying on your back, all you need to do is push the ball up as high as you can, catch it on the way down and the explode it back up into the air as high as you can. If you incorporate this exercise into your routine even once a week, you will see huge gains in your ability to swing faster if this was a problem area for you.

That being said, power creation requires not only speed but also strength development. It is also important that you have a solid strength program to increase your ability to generate more force. While this is beyond the scope of this article, finding yourself a solid golf fitness expert will help you create your ideal program.

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Podcasts

GolfWRX Forum Member dpb5031 talks about the TaylorMade Twist Face Experience

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Forum member dpb5031 (aka Dewey) joins TG2 to talk about his Twist Face Experience at The Kingdom. Recently, him and 6 other GolfWRX Members went to TaylorMade HQ to get fit for new M3 and M4 drivers. Does Twist Face work? Dewey provides his answer.

Listen to the podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes!

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Opinion & Analysis

Inside the Ropes: 5 things you didn’t know about playing on the PGA Tour

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Golf finds a way to take a hold on you… whether you become entranced by the skill of the world’s best professionals, fall in love with the feeling and beauty of a well-executed shot, or simply enjoy getting outside and having fun — the game is addictive.

I started playing at the age of 4 and began watching the pros on TV dreaming what it would be like to play golf on the PGA Tour. When I earned my PGA Tour status for the 2014 season, that dream became a reality. And like anything, it’s not until I actually experienced that life did I have any idea what it entailed.

For those of you who are curious what it’s like to be on the PGA Tour, here are 5 things to describe it.

1) The Culture

Traveling the world to various cities can be fun, and it’s an underrated part of the Tour lifestyle; you get to see new landscapes and taste the cuisines that define different regions across the country and the world. Unlike some other professional sports, where players stay in one place for maybe a night or two, we get to stay in places for a week or more, which allows for plenty of time away from the course to see the sights and get a feel for what the cities and their cultures offer.

2) The Show

The setup and time that goes into planning an event — the grandstands, concession stands, volunteers, and the whole network that makes these tournaments run — is beyond impressive. We see the finished product at the event in the epicenter of it all, but the planning goes on behind the scenes all year. When it’s game time and the golf ball gets teed up, it’s time for us players to block all of that out, but we certainly appreciate all of the hard work that goes into putting on an event. It may feel like being in a circus at times, but performing in the show is a thrill.

3) The People

The game of golf in general brings people together, but especially so on the Tour. Thousands and thousands of fans come to watch the golf action and enjoy the festivities. The Pro-Ams are a great way for the fans to get an up-close look at what goes on at a Tour event, and they’re also a great way for us pros to interact with fans and maybe provide some helpful swing tips, too. In my opinion, one of the best events of the year is the Pebble Beach Pro-Am — a gathering of pro golfers, athletes, musicians, actors and other celebrities. It’s a testament to how the game can bring people together from different walks of life.

4) Inside the Ropes

The Tour is almost like a private school of sorts. It’s a select group of a couple hundred guys traveling around playing these events. The jocks, the nerds, the geeks, the loners; you see a little of everything. As much as there’s a sociable aspect to traveling on Tour and getting to know these people, it’s a dog-eat-dog world where everyone is playing for their livelihood and playing privileges.

5) The “Pressure”

A season-long race can come down to a single shot making the difference — for some it’s between winning and losing a tournament, and others it’s between keeping and losing your card. The cameras, the grandstands, the noise… it can all be quite distracting. The idea is to block all of that out and pretend you’re playing like a kid, focusing with pure imagination for the shot. All the extra attention can help heighten the focus further, adding inspiration to “give the people what they want” and hit even better golf shots.

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