|Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Guan Tianlang at Mission Hills. (Mandarin Media)|
By Mandarin Media
GUAN TIANLANG WAS ON HAND to take part in a Skills Challenge, staged prior to The Match before a crowd of some 120 junior golfers, most of whom were in town for an important junior tournament played at Mission Hills Haikou Oct. 26-27. With this sort of spirited, local support, young Guan beat both Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy in the skills competition, besting his heroes 50 points to 30.
Speaking before the contest, a confident Guan had said, "I'm playing well at the moment and am confident that I can beat them in this challenge."
And beat them he did.
"I was so lucky," Guan said afterward, sharing a laugh with Tiger and Rory before assembled media. "When I was in the States, I had a chance to, for example, view you guys practicing your short games and your technique. I consider myself very lucky to win this skills challenge today."
Rise of Junior Golf
|Rory and Tiger with junior golfers. (Mandarin Media)|
"They hit the ball very well, but golf is not all about that—it's about getting out on the course, shooting scores and knowing your way around the golf course," said Woods. "I just hope they enjoy it, have fun doing it, have fun trying to do it a little bit better and enjoy the competition part."
Junior golf development remains at the heart of Mission Hills' golf strategy. Before 2013 is through, Mission Hills will host 36 junior tournaments featuring golfers from 30 countries. In January of 2013, in a move widely praised by the international golfing community, Mission Hills announced that three of its courses would be open to golfers under the age of 16 on a free-of-charge basis.
"This is a great initiative, having two golf courses for under-16s free. It's incredible," McIlroy said.
"I wish, back when I was growing up, which wasn't that long ago, we had places like that, where we could come and play golf for free. To make golf more accessible, especially in a country like China where it's seen as a rich man's game, is just—it's phenomenal."