U.S. Junior Am final: Jim Liu vs. Andy Shim

Jim Liu, left, and Andy Shim will face off in Saturday's U.S. Junior Amateur final at the Golf Club of New England in Stratham, N.H.

Jim Liu, left, and Andy Shim will face off in Saturday's U.S. Junior Amateur final at the Golf Club of New England in Stratham, N.H.

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STRATHAM, N.H. – Andy Shim and his family moved from South Korea to Duluth, Ga., three years ago.

“The golf is so good in America, so we just decided to come here and see how it is,” Shim said.

The Shims decided to stay, and three years later, Andy is in the final of the U.S. Junior Amateur.

“It feels great,” said Shim, who defeated Nicolas Echavarria, 2 and 1, on Friday to set up a meeting with Jim Liu in Saturday’s final. “It’s like a dream come true.”

Shim went up early on Echavarria, making birdie on the par-4 second hole. He remained 1 up until Echavarria tied the match with an 8-footer for birdie on No. 9.

But a 50-foot birdie putt on No. 10 gave Shim the lead, and the momentum. He never trailed again, winning the match on the par-3 17th hole after Echavarria found the hazard and Shim conservatively made bogey to win.

Now, Shim will get Liu, the 2010 champion and co-medalist from this week. Liu jumped on Matthew Scobie on the first hole of their semifinal match and never trailed, winning 3 and 1.

Liu carded birdie on four of his first five holes, continuing his impressive run at the Golf Club of New England.

“It feels good that I’ve played well in all my matches to get here, but things still aren’t done yet and I have to take it one step at a time and pace myself,” Liu said. “It’s going to be a long 36 holes, and I’m looking forward to it.”

Liu already has proved that he has what it takes. But so has Shim, who can become the first Korean to win the U.S. Junior since Sihwan Kim in 2004.

“It’s good for (Koreans),” Shim said. “The U.S. Junior is the biggest tournament in the United States. It would mean a lot.”

So, after five days, it’s Liu vs. Shim. Here’s a closer look at the matchup:

• • •

Jim Liu

Age: 17

Hometown: Smithtown, N.Y.

Stroke-play results: T-1, 70-71–141

Match-play results: Round of 64 – def. Nicholas Crozier, 5 and 4; Round of 32 – def. James Riley, 2 and 1; Round of 16 – def. Eric Ricard, 3 and 1; Quarterfinals – def. Nicolo Galletti, 3 and 2; Semifinals – def. Matthew Scobie, 3 and 1.

Why he’ll win: Liu, a Stanford commit, has been about as consistent as any golfer this week. He’s found fairways, hit greens and sank putts. Liu has birdied 14 of the 18 holes this week at the Golf Club of New England, and one of the holes that he has yet to birdie ­– the par-4, 18th – he hasn’t played since the final round of stroke play. Pretty comforting stat for those looking to see Liu join Tiger Woods and Jordan Spieth as the only two-time U.S. Junior champions.

He said it: “Now it feels like everything is starting to fall in place.”

• • •

Andy Shim

Age: 17

Hometown: Duluth, Ga.

Stroke-play results: T-37, 78-72–150

Match-play results: Round of 64 – def. Nicholas Jan, 4 and 2; Round of 32 – def. Sam Horsfield, 3 and 2; Round of 16 – def. Andrej Bevins, 19 holes; Quarterfinals – def. Joo-Young Lee, 4 and 2; Semifinals – def. Nicolas Echavarria, 2 and 1.

Why he’ll win: Shim’s short game has been locked in. He’s been strong around the greens all week, including making a huge 25-footer to win his Round of 16 match on the 19th hole. He’s also made a couple chip-ins. If he continues his rhythm on the greens, he’ll have a shot at beating Liu, who has proved that it usually takes birdie or better to beat him on any given hole.

He said it: “I’m excited because I’m going to the final. I’ve been playing well lately.”

• • •

The pick: Shim will hang around early, but Liu just doesn’t make mistakes. He’ll win with a few holes to spare.

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