Former Husker golfer Vic Carder gives a 14-year-old phenom a putting tip.
By Randy York
The PGA golf pro and director of Golf at 14-year-old GuanTianlang’s home course in Qingyuan, China, grew up in Lincoln, lettered two years as a Nebraska golfer, is close friends with the Nebraska head men’s golf coach and was a caddy for Bob Devaney.
Vic Carder’s name may not ring a national bell, but it certainly carries weight at the Country Club of Lincoln, where he worked from 1967-79 and then as an assistant pro at Lincoln’s Hillcrest Country Club after earning his second varsity letter as a Cornhusker in ’79.
Carder has fond memories of a legendary football coach and strong praise for perhaps golf’s greatest and youngest prodigy, not to mention the role that Guan’s dad has played in his son’s accelerated development, calm demeanor and remarkable poise.
Carder: Guan Tianlang is the Real Deal
“I’m watching the Masters like everyone else – on TV and was captivated with Guan’s first round of 73 at Augusta,” Carder told me. “Guan is the real deal. He works very hard, and even though I’ve worked with him, his dad, Han Wen, is Guan’s teacher.”
Together, father and son, have brought an international level of fame to Lion Lake, the home course for a 14-year-old eighth-grader who shot 1 over par in Thursday’s opening round of the 2013 Masters, two shots better than Bubba Watson, the tournament’s defending champion. Tianlang’s opening-round 73 was three shots better than Arnold Palmer’s and Jack Nicklaus’ first round at Augusta, and they were ages 25 and 19, respectively.
Carder was among the least surprised people in the world when Guan birdied the last hole to position himself to make the cut. “When he and his dad are out at Lion Lake, they work 8 to 10 hours every day, and his dad is with him at all times. Guan is a very mature young man and understands the history of the game.”
Crenshaw Practice Round a Big Help
Vic Carder is an admirer of Guan Tianlang, not a mentor. “I was able to contact Ben Crenshaw and arrange a practice round with him that I believe was very helpful to Guan,” Carder said. “This is a huge story for golf worldwide and hopefully it will help grow the game here in China.”
Carder has lived in China for 2½ years and admits missing two of Memorial Stadium’s favorite foods – Runzas and Valentino’s Pizza. “We’re 13 hours ahead of Lincoln time,” Carder said. “I’m able to stream most of the football games, and I really like it when Nebraska has a night game. Whenever they have an early game, I’m still up and watching it at 3 o’clock or 4 o’clock in the morning.”
A good friend with Nebraska head golf coach Bill Spangler, Carder became Devaney’s caddy when he began working at the Country Club of Lincoln.
Bob’s Competitive Emotions Were Obvious
“It was always fun to caddy for Bob and the group that he would play with,” Carder said. “Bob always had fun. I remember him enjoying his special lemonade and always having some sort of friendly bet going. The people he played with would needle each other all the time. Even though he was about an 18 handicap, Bob still had the desire to beat whoever he was playing against, and he was competitive enough that his temper would show up on the course every now and then.”
The same cannot be said of a 5-foot-9, 150-pound phenom who keeps his emotions in check, even when he’s competing against the world’s best golfers before he’s even in high school. “However Guan finishes in the Masters, this is a big deal in China,” Carder said. “Golf is just starting to catch on here, and he’s our first golfer with superstar potential.”
An Inspirational Touchdown, Even on China TV
Tianlang isn’t the only international phenom that Carder is following these days.
“As a proud class of ‘79 alumni and a lifelong Husker fan, I can say that I have never been prouder to call myself a Husker than when I was watching Jack Hoffman’s 69-yard touchdown run in the Spring Game,” Carder said. “I will continue to wear my red hats and sweatshirts with more pride than ever.”
Who knows? Maybe Nebraska’s biggest fan in Southeast China will show the most talked about 14-year-old golfer in history the video of Little Jack’s touchdown. And maybe, just maybe, Jack will inspire Guan like he’s inspiring everyone else.
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