This week’s Valero Texas Open field is without most of the sport’s marquee attractions – Sergio Garcia (No.10) is the lone player in the world top-20. Despite this lack of firepower, there is a notable name in the Lone Star proceedings.
Joaquin Niemann, the No.1 amateur in the world, is making his professional debut this week at TPC San Antonio. Niemann, a 19-year-old from Chile, has held down the top spot since Maverick McNealy turned pro last May. Some of his amateur highlights include winning the prestigious IMG Academy Junior World Championships in consecutive years, earning Junior All-American honours and capturing the 2018 Latin America Amateur Championship, which bestowed an invite to the Masters. (He missed the cut at Augusta National by shooting 76-77.)
He also won the Mark H. McCormack Medal for finishing the year as world No.1, gaining entry into this year’s US Open and British Open, although by forfeiting his amateur status he loses invites to both Majors. Aside from the Masters, Niemann has played in the 2017 US Open (missed cut) and the Greenbrier Classic, where he finished T-29.
However, it’s not just Niemann’s play that is launching his career. He was set to join the South Florida Bulls golf team, but Niemann, who is still learning English, didn’t score well on an entrance exam. After his exit in the round of 64 at last year’s US Amateur, Niemann decided to expedite the professional process.
Coinciding with his announcement, Niemann has signed contracts with Ping and Adidas. According to Golf Digest’s Mike Johnson, the Ping deal calls for a minimum of 11 clubs, including driver (G400 LST) and putter (Karsten Anser 2).
With Niemann’s move to the pro ranks, reigning NCAA individual champion Braden Thornberry – who finished T-4 at last year’s FedEx St Jude Classic – will likely ascend to the No.1 amateur ranking.