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Mr. 59? Let’s Try Master 58

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Temperatures were in the mid-90s on Tuesday at Alhambra Municipal Golf Course.

But Henry Liaw hardly worked up a sweat, despite the fact that he was walking the course in baggy slacks while his playing partners were in shorts.

How cool was this kid?

Try 58.

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That’s what the 12-year-old from Rowland Heights shot during the Alhambra Junior Open, a Southern California PGA Junior Golf Assn. tournament for players 7-17. And, yes, that was for both nines of the 5,214-yard, par-70 layout.

Competing in a bracket for 12- and 13-year-olds, Liaw beat his nearest competitor by 11 strokes. He was eight strokes better than Brandon Matsui of Torrance and John Kwon of Newport Beach for overall honors.

Liaw also became the first member in the 50-year history of the junior golf association to break 60 during competition on a regulation course. The previous low round was 66.

He set a course record, bettering the 59s shot by head pro Jerry Wisz and assistant pro Joey Citro. “That was quite a round,” Wisz said of Liaw’s accomplishment.

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Indeed.

Liaw won his flight last week in the Junior World Championships in San Diego by finishing 15 under par through three rounds at Singing Hills Resort. At Alhambra, he had 10 birdies, an eagle and no bogeys in shooting 29-29. He needed only 25 putts.

Alhambra isn’t a tough course by any stretch of the imagination--its rating from the blue tees is only 64.5--but a 58 is still a 58.

“Sure, this is a short course, but Tiger [Woods] played here and a lot of other [big names] played here when they were kids and nobody even [got close to] that,” said Michael Crawford, another assistant pro whose best round is a 63. “What makes it more phenomenal is that the greenskeeper said the course hasn’t played this tough in more than 10 years. He had the rough as high as four inches [for the upcoming club championship] in some places.”

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Liaw apparently never found the rough. But he did find the left-front bunker on No. 18, his ball coming to rest on the slope nearest the green with the pin up and hardly any room to work with.

“He almost holed out,” said Crawford, the acting course manager during the tournament. “His ball lipped the cup and stopped six inches away.”

Asked if there was skepticism floating around the fairways, or if there might be any reason to believe Liaw might not be playing as well as his scorecard was indicating, Crawford said absolutely not.

“The three kids he was playing with are all well respected, honorable kids,” Crawford said. “When I got a report that he was nine under through No. 15, I had one of the marshals accompany him the rest of the way.

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“And I went out at No. 15 and watched him down the stretch. This kid had no nerves and he was smiling as though he didn’t have a care in the world. Sure he was grinding, but he didn’t let pressure get to him at all.”

Actually, Liaw, who was playing in another junior tournament in Victorville on Wednesday afternoon and couldn’t be reached for comment, admitted to being very nervous as he reached the tee on No. 18.

“My stomach started to growl,” he told one of the officials.

It was probably the tiger in him.

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