Dixie Amateur: Jim Liu Returns with a New Perspective
Jim Liu was the #1 junior and a regular in the Stanford starting lineup.<br>Then he stepped away from competitive golf. (Golfweek photo)
Jim Liu was the #1 junior and a regular in the Stanford starting lineup.
Then he stepped away from competitive golf. (Golfweek photo)

(December 15, 2017) - As he enters his first amateur golf tournament – or any golf tournament, for that matter – since 2015, Jim Liu’s name does not even exist in the amateur rankings anymore. He knows because he checked.

Once, Jim Liu was very prominent in those rankings. When Liu went to Stanford in the fall of 2013, he was the consensus top-ranked junior – by Golfweek, by the American Junior Golf Association and by the National Junior Golf Scoreboard. After he won the 2010 U.S. Junior Amateur, becoming the youngest player to do so at the age of 14, he was on the fast-track to becoming a household name. He was being compared to Tiger Woods.

Jim Liu with the U.S. Junior Trophy
Jim Liu was the youngest ever winner of the
U.S. Junior, eclipsing Tiger Woods' record
Paths change, though, and Liu has no regrets about his.

“If you asked me where I thought I’d be when I was just entering college, I probably wouldn’t give the answer of where I’m at right now,” Liu said. “On the other side of that coin, I don’t really regret any of the decisions I’ve made.”

Right now, Liu is about to graduate from Stanford (next March) and resume work with Bank of America Merrill Lynch, where he interned last summer. He’ll be an analyst in the investment banking division with financial sponsors, and he’ll be working in New York City – close to his boyhood home on Long Island but far enough away to be on his own.

As he enters the professional world of finance, a professional golf career is no longer part of his aspirations. Liu acknowledges, though, that if the past few years taught him anything, it’s that “you never know what life will bring you.”

Liu played only one full season of college golf for Stanford (2013-14), competing in nine tournaments. In those days, he practiced six-and-a-half days a week – in other words, an off day every two weeks.

At the beginning of the 2014 season, in a move that was hard to see coming from the outside, Liu announced he would take a break from college and college golf. A minor back injury had plagued his first year at Stanford, and besides that, “a lot of things weren’t really what I was expecting.”

Liu’s solution was to travel and play amateur golf, and he poured himself into that, spending time in Spain and Australia competing but playing top events stateside too. That run ended with the Lytham Trophy in May 2015. At that point, Liu decided it was time to re-evaluate. The back injury lingered, and mentally, he didn’t feel like he was where he should be to compete.

Liu walked away from the game until the itch brought him back.

The Jim Liu File (courtesy Stanford media guide)
  • Shot course record tying 63 at famed Cypress Point to tie Ben Hogan and Adam Scott
  • Former #1 ranked junior in all three rankings (Golfweek, Polo Rankings & NJGS)
  • Member of the 16-man Walker Cup practice squad in 2012
  • 4-time AJGA Rolex All-American (2009, 2010, 2011, 2012)
  • Two-time member of winning US Junior Ryder Cup team (2010 and 2012), one of only three players to take part in two events
  • Won the US Junior Amateur and advanced to Round of 32 at US Public Links at the age of 14
  • Played in 5 US Jr. amateurs, 4 US Amateurs and 2 US Public Links championships
  • In 2013 became the 3rd US player to medal in stroke play at the US Junior Amateur in consecutive years (Tiger Woods, Willie Wood)
  • In 2005 at age 9, shot a 59 at the PJGT Tour Championship at Lake Buena Vista Course in Orlanda, Fla.
  • Honored as one of 5 best junior golfers in the world with a Byron Nelson Junior Award in 2013

“Deciding to play the Dixie was sort of a whim decision of mine,” Liu said of teeing it up in South Florida for the prestigious – and heavily international – event.

He’s been careful to keep it from getting too intense, and in many ways it feels like a holiday. He couldn’t recruit any golf buddies to make the trip with him, so instead his father Yiming will tag along. Jim is going to encourage dad to stay at the beach while he plays.

Liu plans to scrap the second practice round for the beach, too.

Without golf, Liu has been able to flesh out some of his other interests. Always creative as a kid, Liu imagined he might major in product design at Stanford, but it was hard to get started on that track while he was still playing on the golf team. The practice and competition schedule was too demanding. That’s why Liu settled on economics, even though in his post-golf team days, he found his place in a fraternity and also joined the Stanford solar car project (doing more marketing than engineering).

With all that going on, Liu’s golf time has been reduced to roughly eight rounds a year each of the past two years. Most of those take place at the Stanford Golf Course, when he can round up a few pals and drop $15 for a twilight round.

When Liu is home in New York, he often plays Bethpage. Given the quality of golf, Liu may be more prepared for the Dixie than the handful of rounds suggests.

“Part of the reason why I decided to take time off school in the most place is I was losing my original reason for why I fell in love with the game,” Liu said. “It almost got to a point where playing college golf almost became chore-like, that’s not a healthy thing in the long-term. I think my perspective since then has changed a little bit.”

As for the Dixie, Liu said he hasn’t starting feeling nervous for his return to competition. Given this new approach to golf and life, the nerves may not set in at all.

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