Chinese prodigy Guan gunning for second AAC victory
Elite amateur championship could face tough conditions over the weekend
REPORTING FROM HONG KONG
Both golfers on either side of him, Yu Chun-an and Jin Cheng, picked their positions and rattled off answers, but Guan Tianlang was noncommittal, unmoved and unabashed about it.
It was hardly a controversial question - which hole do you think is shaping up to be the hardest one?
After two sunny practice days out on the greens at the Clearwater Bay Golf & Country Club, it would not be too much to expect the 16-year-old golf prodigy, with a growing reputation for a precision beyond his years, to be able to suss out the course that stands between him and another ticket to the Masters.
But the Chinese teenager stuck to his guns.
"I'm not sure," he said.
"The wind is changing these two days, and the forecast is windy rains."
The Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship (AAC) kicks off in Hong Kong today, with the last man standing in the 120-strong field receiving an invitation to the Masters next year, and entry into the qualifying series for the British Open.
Guan has been there before - after winning the 2012 AAC, he played with distinction at the 2013 Masters, surviving the cut at Augusta despite taking a one-stroke penalty for slow play.
It was a sensational achievement by a 14-year-old, whose experience playing at the most exclusive venue in golf has clearly boosted his knowledge of the game.
Two years later, Guan's concerns about the weather here over the next few days could be absolutely spot-on.
"The last couple of days have been calm, and people may be thinking it's an easy course with several scoring holes," said Hong Kong's Matthew Cheung, who is familiar with the course.
"It's supposed to blow on Saturday and Sunday, and the course can play very different."
Guan carried himself with a poise of a player who knows exactly what he is capable of yesterday.
"I am much better now than I was in 2012. (Then) I played my best and won by one shot, and if I play my best (again), I will have a chance," he said.
But it will not be a walk in the park.
In the 120-strong field - it features six Singaporeans, including Jerome Ng, who has played in every edition of the AAC since the 2009 edition - is another former winner, Antonio Murdaca, who is the defending champion.
He vividly remembers his moment in the sun at the Masters in April.
"It was heart-stopping at that first tee, walking through the crowds to get to the box... don't really have words for it," said the 20-year-old Aussie.
"It was one of the hardest drives I've had to hit in my life.
"And I'm doing everything I need to do to get back there."
ASIA-PACIFIC AMATEUR CHAMPIONSHIP
- Format: 72-hole stroke play, cut after 36 holes, only the top 60 (including ties) in the 120-man field will play over the weekend
- What's at stake: The winner will receive an invitation to The Masters next year and entry into the qualifying series for the British Open. The runner-up will join the winner in the qualifying series for the 2016 British Open.
- Flying the flag: Singapore will be represented by Gregory Foo, Joshua Ho, Abdul Hadi, James Leow, Joshua Shou and Jerome Ng, who is the only player in the field to have played in every edition of the AAC since its inception in 2009.