His name is Joaquin Niemann.  He’s 18 years old,  #1 in World Amateur Golf Rankings and he’s going to play college golf at the University of South Florida. That’s right, the best amateur in the world is headed to Tampa.  Pretty good recruiting job by USF Head Coach for men’s golf Steve Bradley.

“Don’t mistake Joaquin’s even-keel nature and likeability for lack of competitiveness,” said Bradley, in GlobalGolfPost.com.  “He’ll beat you, 9 and 8, and be nice doing it.” The laid-back Joaquin has been doing a lot of winning, in the past two years, while seeming to sneak up on the amateur golf world.  He won 6 junior tournaments in 2016, then has matched that win total so far in 2017.  All on his way to being number one.

“I knew I could reach number-one in the world,” Joaquin told Sean Fairholm of GlobalGolfPost.com.  “But it happened faster than I expected.”

Now, this native of Santiago, Chile, has made a dent in the professional golf arena.  He qualified for the U.S. Open in June but missed the cut at Erin Hills when he shot 74-75.

Then, this past weekend,  he played on a sponsor’s exemption in the Greenbrier Classic.  He not only made the cut but finished in a tie for 29th, thanks to firing a 64 on Sunday.  But, he’s still an amateur so no paycheck.

Joaquin originally planned to come to Tampa in the fall, but he’s trying to win the Mark H. McCormack Medal for being the top-ranked amateur in the world.  That will be awarded after the U.S. Amateur in August.  So now, Joaquin plans on enrolling at USF in January of 2018.

He credits his swing coach, Eduardo Miquel, for his rapid development in the past five years. “It was a turning point in my life when I switched coaches,” recalled Joaquin.  “Eduardo taught me to enjoy the game instead of getting frustrated by it.” 

”From the first day, I realized he had something special,” said Eduardo.  “He learned how to understand the game the way it is, and the things that are required to get to the top.”

Joaquin already has a friend in Tampa. Claudio Correa, a fellow Chilean, will be a senior on the USF golf team this fall.  He also caddied for Joaquin at the U.S. Open.  Correa told Coach Bradley about this golfing prodigy years ago.

“I expect to finish college, but you never know what’s going to happen,” Joaquin said of his new school, USF.  “I’m going to miss my family, but I’m also very excited to start this new stage of my life.”

Steve Bradley and USF are pretty excited, too. Read more by Dave Wirth and visit our Tampa Sports Page for on local sports activities and events. (Cover photo Facebook Page Concepción Conectados)