Ernie Els has gone for youth with two of his captain's picks for the Presidents Cup with Joaquin Niemann breaking new ground for his country
Joaquin Niemann should have been playing college golf as recently as last year but, after some confusion with an entrance exam to the University of South Florida and the fact he had just spent the best part of the year as the World No. 1 amateur, he turned pro.
Already on his major CV was the US Open at Erin Hills, where he came through qualifying, and the 2018 Masters, thanks to his Latin American Amateur victory, he forfeited the chance to play in the US Open at Shinnecock and Open at Carnoustie. The decision was a beauty as, within eight starts, he had his card for this year.
For a bit of context on how tough it is to earn your PGA Tour card purely through FedEx Cup points the only other players on this list are Jordan Spieth (2013) and Jon Rahm (2016).
His route into golf came through the tried-and-tested route, some plastic clubs at the age of two, and he remembers hitting a 40-yard shot with real equipment, two years later, during a family BBQ and hitting his grandmother in the leg.
Now, on the day that he turned 21, he is a Presidents Cup player – Jason Day, Adam Hadwin and Sungjae Im were the other picks – and the first from Chile to represent the International team having won at The Greenbrier in September by six shots. Again he joined another stellar cast of Seve Ballesteros and Rory McIlroy by winning on tour before turning 21.
“I didn’t go looking for Joaquin or Sungjae but they made themselves a lock on this team,” captain Ernie Els said. “I definitely wasn’t that good at 20, 21, but these guys are world-class players and they’ve proven themselves. I’m excited by the new blood that’s coming in.
“It’s great to have a couple of Spanish-speaking guys on the team but we didn’t choose Joaquin because of (Mexico’s) Abraham Ancer. It’s because of Joaquin’s performance on the course and the type of person Joaquin is, and it’s just by chance that these things fall in place to be honest with you.
“Who would have ever thought, even just two Presidents Cups, three Presidents Cups ago, that a player from Mexico will be on the team and a player from Chile. Who knows, I might pair them together. I think they might enjoy it; they can speak Spanish together, but let’s see what happens.”
With the wildcards Els has nine different nationalities at his disposal and Niemann is delighted to break new ground for his country.
“It’s very big for my country. Everybody down in Chile is really excited, and I think it’s going to be a couple of Chilean people going to Australia to support us, and yeah, also really big for South America. I think it’s going to help a lot to grow out the game over there, and it’s also going to help for the future to get better players. I think we are going to bring a lot of energy. I think it’s going to be really fun and we are going to do great.”