Liem was born on 28 February 1956 in Kudus, Central Java. His parents were Ng Thian Poo and Oei See Moi from Fujian. He was the only son of 8 children. During elementary school, he studied at Sekolah Tionghoa, and later moved to SD Negeri Dema'an II in 1965. In 1974, he changed his name to Guntur in order to accept government instruction.
Liem won Central Java badminton championship at the age of 15. In November 1972, he participated in First Djakarta Badminton Open Tournament. It was his first international tournament. Three years later, he won Moenadi Cup, the Central Java Governor Cup. In 1973, he strengthened Central Java on Pekan Olahraga Nasional VIII and reached the final. After that in the same year, he won Kejuaraan Dunia Bulu Tangkis Piala Garuda (Garuda Cup Badminton World Championship) in Tegal.