14-Year-Old Tianlang Guan Penalized For Slow Play at The Masters With One Hole Remaining

There are three reasons that people quit the game of golf- it’s too difficult, too expensive and takes too long to play.  No question about it, they’re all issues that are preventing our beloved game’s growth.  Slow play, in my opinion, is the biggest threat to our game, as something about leaving for 4 1/2 or 5 hours on a Saturday or Sunday just doesn’t seem to fit well into the family’s weekend plans.

On Friday at Augusta National, 14-year-old Tianlang Guan was cruising along as THE story of the 2013 Masters.  Guan was +3 for the week and inside the cut line on the 17th hole after taking four strokes, when walking off the green when European Tour official John Paramor pulled him aside and assessed him a one stroke penalty for slow play.  Wait a tic, the last slow play penalty assessed on the PGA Tour was to Glen Day way back in 1995 (nearly 4 years before Guan was born!), penalties for slow play in professional golf just aren’t assessed, right?  Well, Augusta National skips to the beat of their own drum, as it’s their club and their rules.  Not that any one player should be treated specially or differently than any other player on the course, BUT, penalizing a 14-year-old kid when this just plain isn’t done on Tour?  Come on, Augusta.

On top of all that, it was the 17th hole of the day (according to Augusta National, Guan was put on the clock on hole 12 and warned for slow play on the 13th hole), meaning that Guan only had one hole left to play!  Not only did he only have one more hole left to play, he was at +3 and looking at making the cut to the weekend.  I watched the online coverage this morning and yes, Guan is slow and needs to speed up his routine and decision-making, but this timing couldn’t have been worse.

Following the one stroke penalty, it turned his par into a bogey, and after a par on 18 Guan posted +4, not +3.  With the leaders hovering around 5-under par at the moment, that one stroke could be critical to Guan making the weekend as all players within 10 shots make the weekend, in addition to the top 50 and ties.  Imagine if this penalty keeps him from making the weekend.

I love the Masters, Augusta National and everything it stands for.  But, seriously guys- a 14-year-old playing in your tournament and not only playing, but playing well enough to potentially make the weekend?  And you choose to squash this story with slapping him with a one stroke penalty for slow play?  And, worse yet, on the 17th hole?!  Get real guys.  As Shane Bacon of Yahoo Sports said, may as well also broadcast to all kids in the country that Santa Claus isn’t real.

So now, we’re left with a thrilling event that will undoubtedly be overshadowed by this nit picky and senseless penalty.  Talk about a momentum killer.  You’re so much better than that, Augusta.

Joel Harrington

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