After his son hoisted junior golf’s most prestigious trophy, Yiming Liu phoned John Anselmo, the ageless southern California golf pro made famous for his early tutelage of Tiger Woods.
The proud papa left a brief message: “Jim just broke your student’s record.”
Fourteen-year-old Jim Liu, of Smithtown, N.Y., and nicknamed “Slim Jim,” became the youngest U.S. Junior Amateur champion in history on July 24, beating Justin Thomas, 4 and 2, in a 36-hole match at Michigan’s Egypt Valley Country Club.
Nineteen years ago, when Woods won his first of three consecutive U.S. Junior titles, he worked with Anselmo, the club pro at Meadowlark Golf Club in Huntington Beach, Calif. Anselmo, now 89, is the man tapped to monitor and improve Liu’s game.
When Liu has a weeklong break from school, or when Long Island’s winter pre-empts practice, Liu hops a cross-country flight to study under Anselmo.
“I think he’s going to be real proud of me,” said Liu, who at 14 years, 11 months, 15 days, beat Woods’ previous mark by more than seven months.
It’s not too often that a tie for second place trumps the champion reclaiming the top ranking as one of the “Five things you need to know.” But it is when 15-year-old prodigy-turned-pro Alexis Thompson shoots a final-round 67 at the Evian Masters and finishes one stroke behind winner Shin Ji-yai, who is projected to return to the No. 1 spot in the Rolex Rankings.
When Thompson abandoned her role as a top amateur golfer following the Curtis Cup, there was plenty of second-guessing about the decision at such a young age.
This was Thompson’s third start as a professional. She missed the cut in her professional debut at the ShopRite LPGA Classic and finished T-10 at the U.S. Women’s Open two weeks ago.
The early returns raise the question of whether Thompson will petition the LPGA to join the tour full time, perhaps as early as next season. The LPGA has rules restricting the number of events a golfer younger than 18 can enter. Thompson is limited to six sponsor exemptions a year, excluding the U.S. Women’s Open and the Women’s British Open, which are not operated by the LPGA.
Asked last month by The New York Times whether she intended to ask commissioner Mike Whan for a membership waiver before her 18th birthday, Thompson said, “At some point, yes, but I haven’t really thought about it. I’m just taking one tournament at a time so far.”
So far, so good.
To many golf fans, Dean Wilson is still best known for befriending Annika Sorenstam as her playing partner when she competed with the men at The Colonial in 2003.
Since his first win in 2006, Wilson, a dead-ringer for actor Dean Cain of Superman fame, has played more like Clark Kent. Wilson hadn’t registered a top-10 finish since the 2008 U.S. Bank Championship. This year, he’s just banked a meager $65,770, which might be OK if you’re working at The Daily Planet, but not if you are trying to regain your Tour card.
But after finishing no better than T-28 this season, Wilson recorded three consecutive 65s this week at the RBC Canadian Open, including during a rain-drenched third round, and built a four-stroke lead.
“Yeah. Another day in Hawaii, right?” joked Wilson, a native of the Aloha State.
Wilson, who turned 40 in December, said he drew inspiration from the victories last week by Louis Oosthuizen at the British Open and Matt Bettencourt at the Reno-Tahoe Open.
“You never know when it’s going to happen, so you just have to keep fighting and stick to it,” Wilson said.
Wilson did, but it wasn’t quite enough.
Carl Pettersson proved to be kryptonite. Pettersson, who made the cut on the number, fired a third-round 60 and birdied six of eight holes from Nos. 8 to 15 in the final round to pass Wilson and win by one.
Still, a pretty Super performance for Wilson, eh?
New Zealand legend Bob Charles signed for a second-round 78 to miss the cut in the Senior British Open Championship and brought his career as a tournament professional to an end. The 74-year-old can look back at a glittering career. He became the first New Zealander to win a major when he won the 1963 Open Championship at Royal Lytham. He held that distinction for 42 years, until Michael Campbell won the 2005 U.S. Open. Charles also became the first left-hander to win a major. In more than 50 years as a pro, he won 68 tournaments, including six PGA Tour events. Three years ago, Charles, at age 71, finished T-23 in the New Zealand Open.
Louis Oosthuizen left little doubt at last week’s British Open, mowing down the field by 7 strokes.
When he gets back home to South Africa, he’ll be plowing the family farmland with a new, custom-designed John Deere tractor.
“Being a farm boy, it was one of my big dreams,’’ said the 27-year-old Oosthuizen of his first purchase with his new spoils. “John Deere is very close to my heart. It’s for me to drive around on, and I made sure there was enough space for my little daughter Jana to sit beside me. We’re going to have a lot of fun.’’
Maybe the champion golfer of the year will consider warming up for his title defense at Royal St. George’s next year by competing in the John Deere Classic. After all, along with the first-place check and the JDC trophy, the winner is awarded a tractor. Who better than Oosty to put it to good use?