When Jimmy Liu was 6 and still just a neophyte to the game of golf, he won the 2002 U.S. Kids Golf World Championship age division in a three-way playoff.
Was his winning a case of beginner’s luck or of him being supremely talented? At the time, no one really knew.
It just really motivated him to keep playing, said Liu’s father, Limings. It gave him the confidence to keep getting better.
Liu also liked tennis, but not so much swimming, which his mother, Youshuang, preferred. Golf, though, really nabbed Liu’s attention. He enjoyed the time on the course, the competition and, of course, winning.
Today, the 14-year-old Liu continues to make strides and succeed. Coming off a second-round loss at last week’s U.S.
Amateur Public Links Championship in Greensboro, N.C., Liu is competing in this week’s U.S. Junior Amateur at Egypt Valley Country Club in Ada, Mich. He opened the 36-hole stroke-play qualifying portion of the championship on Monday with a solid even-par 72.
Jim Liu, 14, is the youngest player to ever compete in the APL and the youngest to reach the round of 16 at the Junior Amateur. (Steven Gibbons/USGA)
I’ve been playing pretty well this summer, Liu said. I haven’t gone really low, but then I haven’t played really bad. All in all I have been alright.
Liu entered 2010 as a second-team American Junior Golf Association all-American. He also has more than two dozen junior tour titles, which includes three-straight U.S. Kids Golf World Championship titles (2004-06) and a win earlier this year at the International Junior Golf Tour’s Verizon Junior Heritage Championship. Also, at age 9, Liu shot a 59 at the Plantations Junior Golf Tour Championship on the 4,300-yard Lake Buena Vista Golf Course in Orlando, Fla.
He never tires of golf, Limings said. Off the course he’s like any other kid his age, but he really enjoys playing. He never tires.
For all of his successes, though, Liu, a well-spoken teen from Smithtown, N.Y., and a rising sophomore at The Knox School, covets a USGA title.
It doesn’t matter which event, a USGA title is as big as you can get, said Liu, who was the youngest player ever in last week’s APL field. At last year’s U.S. Junior Am, Liu, then 13, became the youngest to ever advance to the round of 16. They test every part of my game, the courses are always tough. If you win one, you really have earned it.
And that is why Liu continues to refine his game with hours of practice and competition. During breaks in his school year, Liu visits instructor John Anselmo at Meadowlark Golf Club in Huntington Beach, Calif. Anselmo played professionally during the Sam Snead and Ben Hogan era and later became one of Tiger Woods’ earlier instructors.
Little doubt that Woods has indirectly influenced Liu’s game. Not only is the World No. 1 Liu’s favorite to watch, Liu likens his swing to Woods’ — with a caveat.
It would be Tiger Woods pre-2002, said Liu, who considers himself more of a feel golfer. I just like his old swing. He’s a lot flatter now and before he took it more upright. And I just think upright is more consistent.
But the question remains whether Liu was the recipient of good fortune or just that talented. The answer may lie outside of golf.
Several years ago, Liu was interested in fishing, so as a birthday present, he was taken saltwater fishing. With one of his first casts Liu reeled in a striped bass.
So would Liu ever pursue a career on the Bassmasters Tour?
Uhh … I don’t think so, he laughed. I think I’ll stick with golf.
Stuart Hall is a freelance writer whose work has previously appeared on USGA websites.