Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan Golfer Andy Shim, 17, of Duluth poses for a portrait at The Standard Club in Johns Creek on Wednesday. Shim recently won this year's Georgia Junior Championship.
DULUTH -- He goes by Andy Shim, but that's not his full name.
"They can't really call me my name, so I just go by Andy," Shim said.
In full, the South Korea born golfer's name is Hyeon Bo Shim. It's a name he's proud of and makes sure to say it and spell it. Andy is just easier to say and spell.
But the first name is where Shim stops making it easier. He came to the United States to play golf, and playing against him is hard.
In his first year playing in the United States, Shim won the American Junior Golf Association's Preseason Junior at Chateau Elan and the RTC Junior All-Star. The next year, he won the Burgett H. Mooney Jr. Rome Classic among his many tournaments.
And then there's this year.
Shim started off the summer by winning the Georgia State Golf Association's Georgia Junior in Albany and qualified for the U.S. Junior Championship. The U.S. Junior is a week of golf, two days of stroke play qualifying and then match play the rest of the way. Shim played 36 holes three straight days and rallied from five holes down against New York's Jim Liu, a top 5 junior golfer and defending U.S. Junior winner, to win 5 and 4.
"It was a wild week," Shim said of the U.S. Junior.
Most recently, he finished in the top 12 at the Junior PGA.
Not bad for a 17-year-old from South Korea.
Growing up outside of the United States, Shim wasn't reared in a golf culture where children under 5 get their first sets of clubs. There's not a big junior circuit or a glut of coaches.
"I started young for me," Shim said. "A lot of Korean people don't start until high school and I was starting about third grade."
Shim followed his father, Jae Fil Shim, around the course and started playing once or twice a week. From there his interest grew. He started looking into playing tournaments where he could by the time he was 13. In that tournament, he finished in the top 3 and the intensity of his interest swelled.
"I wanted to get a lesson from a teaching pro, not my dad, and he said, 'What happens if I get a teaching license?' Will I let him teach me," Shim said. "I said, 'OK, if you can pass, you can teach me.' And he did. So I can't say something."
With his coach in place, the family moved to Duluth. The weather lets Shim play golf nearly year round and his non-English-speaking parents found a home in a heavily Korean area.
"People will ask me where I am from, why did you come here," Shim said. "To play golf. I get that question a lot actually."
Shim first needed to learn English. The year before the move he spent time in Canada with cousins adapting and learning the language. He's fluent now. He has a tutor, but has been homeschooled since he came to the U.S. He spends his days practicing golf and meeting with his tutor. He hopes to take the GRE and then will make a choice between college golf or pursuing a professional career from the start.
He practices every day, sometimes starting as early as 6 a.m. He'll work on his short game, putt and then perhaps play some holes. His dad is with him most days. Never playing, just coaching.
Shim consumes himself with golf. It's the only sport he watches and has ever played seriously. The other American sports don't hold his interest.
His only real interest is playing golf and making a career out of the life he already lives.
"Golf is a really gentle sport," Shim said. "You just go out and play by yourself and try to beat your score. I don't really want to work and make money, if I can play sports and make money that's the best thing I could do."