Masters: Keep pulling up the kids for slow play

MAYBE not Teenage Kicks but certainly teenage kicking. Twice now in less than a year, a golfer in their adolescence has been punished for slow play on two of the game’s main stages.

Add Tianlang Guan’s name to a list that already included Nathan Kimsey, whose case of playing at a snail’s pace may not have received the same publicity as the instance involving the Chinese 14-year-old, yet was equally significant.

Competing in last year’s Amateur Championship at Royal Troon, Englishman Kimsey, who was 18 at the time, suffered the same one-shot penalty handed to Guan, pictured below, in the second round of the 77th Masters after he’d been found to have two “bad times”.

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He was banged to rights. At the start of the event, the R&A handed out a briefing paper – translated, incidentally, into 15 different languages – to every competitor warning them that slow play would be on the agenda that week on the Ayrshire coast.

“Our championship committee had reviewed this whole thing over the winter and decided the policies we had in place were the correct ones, and we are going to enforce them somewhat more rigorously than we had in the past,” said Peter Dawson, the R&A chief executive, at the time.

It didn’t hurt Kimsey, a member at Woodhall Spa, in Lincolnshire, in terms of his short-term ambitions. He still qualified for the match-play phase of the amateur game’s blue ribbon event.

It doesn’t seem to be affecting him in the long term either. Having won a prestigious event in Florida last week, he’s now a strong contender for the Great Britain & Ireland team to defend the Walker Cup later this year.

“It’s my first experience of this kind of thing and it’s left a sour taste in my mouth,” he said when the penalty was handed out. But does he feel that way now? Probably not because it’s one of the best things that might happen in his career.

Once bitten, twice shy should certainly be apt for him and Guan, too.

The Asia-Pacific Amateur champion earned his place in the record books as the youngest player to make the cut in a major. He’s an incredible kid with an incredible talent. But, based on the opening two rounds here, he’s also painfully slow.

Like so many golfers of his age, he’s watched the modern-day Tour players turn the game into a sport that can sometimes make a visit to the dentist’s chair more enticing than an afternoon spectating on the course.

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At long last, the game’s ruling bodies and leading Tours are finally starting to come out of the trenches in the war against slow play.

Some are moving faster than others. Why, for instance, is it taking a full year for the pace of play to be reviewed on the PGA Tour?

As news of Guan’s penalty broke at Augusta, you sensed that some people felt John Paramor, the European Tour’s chief referee and the man that handed out the punishment, was a cruel monster for taking such action against a 14-year-old.

He was simply doing his job. And, if punishing more youngsters helps cut out slow play in the future, then the teenage kicking has to continue.