Chinese youngsters gunning to break golf's record books
Increasing number of teenagers are pushing the envelope on greens
China's Guan Tianlang astonished the world when he made the Masters cut at the age of 14, but his record as the European Tour's youngest player is set to be ripped up by a boy aged only 12.
In two weeks, Ye Wocheng, a precocious pre-teen from the country's south, will lower Guan's record to scarcely believable territory when he tees off at the Volvo China Open.
It comes just a year after Guan played the same event in Tianjin aged 13 and 177 days. He followed that with a bravura performance last week at Augusta National, finishing with the Silver Cup as the Masters' top-placed amateur.
Should 12-year-old Ye make the cut, he will easily outdo Hong Kong's Jason Hak Shun-yat, who became the youngest player to reach the weekend rounds of a European Tour event, aged 14 and 304 days, at the 2008 Hong Kong Open.
In Tianjin, Ye will compete for the spotlight with ultra-young Chinese players, including Guan and Andy Zhang, who became the youngest US Open competitor last year at the age of 14.
Bai Zhengkai, 15, is also in the field, thanks to his victory in last year's Volvo China Junior Match Play Championship, as is America's Jim Liu, who in 2010 became the youngest US Junior Amateur champion at 14.
They will come up against a strong contingent of seasoned pros at the joint European Tour and OneAsia event, headed by former winner Paul Casey, India's Jeev Milkha Singh and the 2014 Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley.
"I'm especially looking forward to seeing how young Ye Wocheng gets on, and I know there are plenty of other youngsters who are soon going to be household names," McGinley said.
Liang Wenchong, 34, one of only two Chinese men to win on the European Tour and his country's top-ranked player at world No 170, said the new talent would pose a genuine threat in the May 2-5 tournament at Tianjin Binhai Lake Golf Club.
"Obviously I would love to win my own national Open, but I know the challenge is getting ever greater as our home-grown talent is improving all the time," said Liang.
Ye, from Dongguan, earned his spot by winning a qualifying tournament in March, while Guan and Zhang are both playing on sponsor's invites.