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Chinese teenager draws lots of young admirers at Augusta

Amateur Guan Tianlang of China waves after hitting his tee shot on the fourth hole during third round play in the 2013 Masters golf tourname
Amateur Guan Tianlang of China waves after hitting his tee shot on the fourth hole during third round play in the 2013 Masters golf tourname

By Larry Fine

AUGUSTA, Georgia (Reuters) - Chinese teenager Guan Tianlang extended his record run at the Masters into the third round, followed by larger galleries and a 'Guan Army' of young admirers at Augusta National on Saturday.

The 14-year-old Guan, the youngest competitor ever in the Masters, made the cut despite being handed a stroke penalty for slow play on Friday.

He steered clear of any further warnings and enjoyed the added attention, but found a little more trouble with the challenges of Augusta National as he registered a five-over-par 77 for a nine-over total of 225.

"I get to play with all the top players on the weekend," he said. "It's great for me, and I think I had a pretty good run in the first two days, and today feels pretty good, not badly."

The weekend brought more school-aged children to the golf course keen to watch the Asia-Pacific Amateur champion, and chant his name after good shots.

"I'm really happy and I really appreciate that they're watching me here," said Guan, an eighth grader back home.

Guan said he played a timely round and was never put on the clock for slow play.

"The weather is good today and we played in twosomes, so we played fast," said Guan, whose play slowed on Friday as he spent extra time deciding which clubs to use in swirling winds that confounded many of the golfers.

Despite posting five bogeys, Guan made three successive par-saves from the fifth hole on, featuring his trademark touch in the short game.

The slender teenager saved his best for last, using his belly putter to sink a spectacular 60-foot putt for par on the 18th that drew a huge roar from the crowd.

"It's a really long putt and good to make it," said Guan, whose 36-hole score was better than 32 players in the field for the year's first major who missed the cut.

Guan said he was thinking about trying to qualify for the upcoming U.S. Open.

"I tried last year, but just kind of had fun," he said.

Regardless of what he shoots in Sunday's final round, Guan will be going to Butler Cabin along with the new Masters champion to receive the silver cup that is awarded to the tournament's low amateur.

"It's my honor to be there and I'm really happy," said Guan.

(Editing by ......)

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