'Best day of my life!' 19-year-old Joaquin Niemann earns PGA Tour card in just eighth start

‘Best day of my life!’ 19-year-old Joaquin Niemann earns PGA Tour card in just eighth start

Joaquin Niemann revealed after Thursday’s round at the Greenbrier that he had expected he’d be in college this year. But thanks to some confusion with an entrance exam at the University of South Florida and (more notably) some really, really good golf, Niemann has gained entrance to a far more exclusive institution: the PGA Tour.

Of late, it’s been the 19-year-old Niemann who has been schooling his older peers. His six-under 64 on Sunday catapulted him up the leaderboard in West Virginia into a share of fifth place. That left him a shot shy of qualifying for the British Open but earned him 93 FedEx Cup Points, in effect guaranteeing him status for the 2018-19 season.

“Maybe the best day of my life!” Niemann wrote on Twitter. “@PGATOUR member.”

The Chilean phenom played in this year’s Masters after winning the Latin American Amateur, and despite missing the cut turned pro shortly thereafter in time for the Valero Texas Open. He made himself look like a genius when he notched a precocious T6 finish there, then added a T8 at Colonial and another T6 at the Memorial en route to amassing 312 non-member points. Equaling the points total of the Tour’s 125th-best player by season’s end earns any non-member a card; that threshold was 365 points in 2017. Niemann blew past that total at the Greenbrier and now has 414 points courtesy his fourth top 10 in just eight pro starts.

It’s rare to earn a full PGA Tour card purely through FedEx Cup points, and it’s a short, impressive list of those who have done so this decade: Jordan Spieth (2013) and Jon Rahm (2016). Sergio Garcia was among those to offer his congratulations. “Bravo Joaco!!” he wrote on Twitter. “Very impressive to get your PGA Tour card with only a hand full of starts!”

“I’ve been playing really good golf,” Niemann acknowledged. “Also, I’ve been enjoying this really much, being out here on the PGA Tour with these guys.”

They’d better get used to having him around.