Greensboro, N.C. — The standard bearer stood underneath a tree shy of the par-4 13th green. The standard read: “Liu 2 up.”
“I walked the first 10 holes before I knew he was 14,” the man said of Jimmy Liu of Smithtown, N.Y., who eventually won 3 up over Colby Shrum in the U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship’s opening round of match play at Bryan Park Golf & Conference Center.
Liu, the youngest player in this week’s field, is holding his own, both in size and game. He will face Canadian Darren Wallace, 21, a 2-and-1 winner over Tevis Upton, in Thursday morning’s second round.
Shrum, 22, of Perry, Okla., won the first hole with birdie, but never owned a lead thereafter. The match was squared at the 463-yard, par-4 second and 442-yard, par-4 fifth holes before Liu birdied the 536-yard, par-5 sixth for a lead he never relinquished.
“I just tried to stay calm early in the match and it went back and forth for a while,” Liu said. “Then I missed some opportunities on eight and nine. The main thing is that I was able to stay calm and pull away in the end.”
With scenic Townsend Lake as the backdrop Liu won the 205-yard, par-3 12th and 472-yard, par-4 13th with a birdie and par, respectively, to take a commanding 3-up lead.
“I played well,” said Liu, a rising junior at the Knox School in St. James, N.Y. “My course management was good. I just had a couple of mental mistakes that I wish I would have handled differently.”
Liu is trying to pace himself during the first of successive national championships. He has also qualified for next week’s U.S. Junior Amateur in Ada, Mich.
“I’ve been playing pretty well this summer, I have gone really low, but then I haven’t played really bad,” he said. “So all in all I’ve been OK, but I could be a little more consistent.”
As Shrum found out on Wednesday, age is relative when playing against Liu, who won four titles, including three in a row, at the U.S. Kids Golf World Championship before age 10. At the U.S. Open sectional qualifier at Noyac Golf Club in Sag Harbor, N.Y., on May 19, Liu missed being an alternate by four strokes.
In Liu’s group that day was caddie Tony Marr, whose father, Dave, won the 1965 PGA Championship.
“The kid is a player,” Marr was quoted as saying.
Liu says he does not feel like a young kid among young men this week.
“No, I really don’t think about it,” he said. “They treat me like just another player. The main thing, like any other tournament, is that we’re all trying to win.”
Stuart Hall is a freelance writer whose work has previously appeared on USGA websites.