Neimann seeks Masters low amateur award to launch pro success

Amateur Joaquin Niemann of Chile speaks with Sergio Garcia and Jose Maria Olazabal of Spain during a practice round prior to the start of the 2018 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on April 3, 2018

Augusta (United States) (AFP) – Chile’s Joaquin Niemann is hoping to emulate Spain’s Sergio Garcia in seizing low amateur honors at the Masters as a prelude to launching his pro career and, like Garcia last year — eventually slipping on a green jacket himself.

“It should be a dream for me to win the amateur trophy, and also to end my career as an amateur champion in the Masters,” said the 19-year-old from Santiago, who earned his Masters invitation with a victory in January’s Latin America Amateur.

“And I hope that one day, if I win this tournament as an amateur, I can win it as a pro.”

Spain’s Garcia was low amateur at Augusta National in 1999 and won his first European Tour title in his sixth start as a professional in July of that year.

Niemann, who will make his pro debut at the US PGA Texas Open later this month, was struck by the photo of Garcia holding the amateur trophy displayed in the Crow’s Nest — the attic rooms in the Augusta National clubhouse where amateur players are traditionally accommodated.

“I hope that one day I have the same picture there with the amateur trophy,” he said.

After the Texas Open, Niemann is scheduled to play the Memorial and the Byron Nelson on US PGA Tour sponsor’s invitations.

China’s Lin Yuxin, who enters the Masters as the Asia-Pacific Amateur champion, isn’t looking at surrendering his amateur status just yet.

The 17-year-old has committed to playing US college golf at the University of Southern California, where he expects to enroll next autumn.

Until then, he has plenty of tournaments on his plate, perhaps some European Tour events in Asia, PGA Tour China and China Tour events before, he hopes, some invitations to compete in England in the build up to the British Open.

In the little more than a decade since he took up golf, Lin said he has seen the game explode in China, in the numbers of youngsters playing and the facilities available.

“Back when I started, the facilities and stuff were kind of bad,” he said. “We were hitting off mats, and it was really hard to find a property where you can actually hit off grass, so it was going to be like really expensive.

“But nowadays the China Golf Association, they’re starting to build some practice bases. They’re wonderful facilities. It’s just easier for kids right now to practice.”