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Liaw Is Soaking Up His Time in the Sun

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Henry Liaw was on a fourth golf course for a fourth consecutive day Thursday and, no, he came nowhere close to shooting a 58, as he did Tuesday while playing in a junior tournament at Alhambra Municipal Golf Course.

The 12-year-old from Rowland Heights, who was six under par with a 66 at Altadena Golf Club on Monday, shot a 69 Wednesday at Spring Valley Lake Country Club in Victorville, which at 6,184 yards is a par 72 and much more difficult than Alhambra, a par-70, 5,214-yard layout. He won the flight for 12- to 13-year-olds.

He followed that with a 67 at De Bell Golf Course in Burbank on Thursday, winning a playoff for his fourth tournament victory in as many days.

All this in temperatures in the 90s and low 100s.

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Liaw said he doesn’t mind. “To me, golfing is really fun, just like going to the beach,” he said.

A day at the beach? Hardly. This kid from Alvarado Intermediate School--he stands 5 feet 4 and weighs 155 pounds--shot a 58.

Liaw’s comment: : “Most of it was just . . . well, kind of luck.”

Luck? Liaw, who uses a driver with a seven-degree loft and can hit the ball 250 yards, hit 13 of 14 fairways and missed only one green. His farthest putt was about 15 feet. He had 10 birdies, an eagle and no bogeys.

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Some might question the score’s validity, or the integrity of the young player, despite the fact that the 58 was posted during the Alhambra Junior Open, a Southern California PGA Junior Golf Assn.-sanctioned event.

The association, which runs tournaments for children ages 7-17, has been around for 50 years. With his 58, Liaw (rhymes with Wow) became the first junior to break 60 in a competitive round, shooting a pair of 29s from the blue tees at Alhambra.

The head pro, Jerry Wisz, said he has no reason to doubt Liaw, and it was Wisz’s course record (a 59) that Liaw broke. Kevin Ostroske, director of junior golf for the SCPGA Junior Golf Assn., believes it. Jerry Wong, Liaw’s golf instructor, does too.

“Everybody was surprised, like myself,” said Wong, 30, a family friend who has been coaching Liaw for more than three years. “But he won the Junior World Open [at 15 under par for three rounds at Singing Hills Resort last week in San Diego] and that really helped his confidence.”

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Ostroske said he understands the skepticism, but points out that golfers in the junior program are aware that cheating will tarnish their reputations when they reach high school and college.

Besides, he added, cheating in these tournaments is not easy.

Golfers are paired in foursomes and exchange scorecards with one other golfer before teeing off. They keep each other’s score and then go over the scores with each other after the round. Both golfers must sign the scorecard.

The golfer Liaw exchanged scorecards with Tuesday, Claron Kim of Rancho Palos Verdes, did not return phone messages left at his home Thursday. But Ostroske vouched for the character of all the golfers in Liaw’s group and said all players knows they can be kicked out of the program for cheating.

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Asked if he’ll ever be able to match or better the 58, Liaw, whose favorite player on the PGA Tour is Justin Leonard, paused for a moment, then said, “If I get another one of those lucky days, maybe.”


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