LAAC Day 2: Niemann bounces back

The World's Number 1 amateur shot 64 in the second round in Chile

World Number 1 amateur Joaquin Niemann has bounced back from a disappointing first day at the LAAC in some style. The Chilean posted a stunning 64 to take the tournament lead.

Joaquin Niemann of Chile holed a bunker shot on his 18th hole at the Prince of Wales CC for an eagle and a fabulous second round of 64. After a disappointing round of three-over on day one, the World’s Number 1 amateur golfer was 10 strokes better on day two and now leads the way in the fourth instalment of the Latin America Amateur Championship (LAAC.)

Niemann started his round on the 10th and he came racing out of the blocks with five birdies in his first seven holes. After a dropped shot on the 17th, his 8th, he reached the turn in just 31 strokes.

A bogey on the 2nd was sandwiched between birdies on the 1st and 3rd holes and he then played some steady golf with five straight pars from the 4th. On his final hole, the 561-yard par-5 9th, he hit a huge drive and had just an iron in for his second. He found the bunker left of the putting surface and then holed out for an eagle three, eliciting rapturous applause from the sizeable home crowd.

“It’s the biggest crowd I’ve ever seen following me,” he said. “I really enjoyed it and I was able to feed off the energy.”

The World’s Number 1

On the eve of the tournament, at a gala reception here at the Prince of Wales CC, Joaquin Niemann was presented with the Mark McCormack Medal, awarded by the R&A to the leading player on the World Amateur Golf Ranking at the end of each season.

There are roughly 60 million amateur golfers in the world and Joaquin Niemann is currently the best of us. So what does the best amateur in the world look like on the golf course? I followed Niemann for 15 holes today to find out.

Well, he shot 64 around a tight and tricky course, and he made it look pretty easy so basically, he looked rather impressive. But let’s break it down a little.

Firstly, although he has a very slight frame, he generates tremendous clubhead speed and power. He can hit the ball miles and he’s an exceptional driver. On the 1st hole (his 10th) he almost drove the green – it measures 361 yards. Sending the ball skyward with a huge, towering flight, it ended on the apron, some 50 yards ahead of his playing partners. From there it was just a simple chip and putt to card another birdie.

But he’s also long through the bag. On the 16th he hit the longest shot I’ve ever seen struck with a hybrid club. I don’t know what loft it had on it but it went stratospheric and on a line I couldn’t believe he had meant to take – straight over a copse of massive trees. But he had intended that line and when we got round the corner of the dog-leg, there was his ball in the middle of the fairway, only 60 or so yards short of the green. I’d estimate that he’d hit it 310 yards.

He employs an aggressive strategy, which is facilitated by his long, yet straight driving. Most players who have come into the press room have commented that this is a course where accuracy is key and hitting driver is not necessarily the play. Niemann is maybe not aware of that – He was boosting his driver off almost every tee.

Niemann reacts to holing out for eagle

Niemann reacts to holing out for eagle

His attitude on course seems pretty good to and his demeanour doesn’t change much whether he’s making birdie or bogey. The only emotional display I saw from him today was a reserved fist pump when he holed out for the eagle and a brilliant 64. Many of the players in this event wear their hearts on their sleeves but Niemann appears to steer a very steady emotional course. The rest of us 59.99 million amateurs could learn a lot from that.

I think that now the 19-year-old has found his feet in this tournament he could be tough to beat.

Fergus Bisset
Contributing Editor

Fergus is Golf Monthly's resident expert on the history of the game and has written extensively on that subject. He is a golf obsessive and 1-handicapper. Growing up in the North East of Scotland, golf runs through his veins and his passion for the sport was bolstered during his time at St Andrews university studying history. He went on to earn a post graduate diploma from the London School of Journalism. Fergus has worked for Golf Monthly since 2004 and has written two books on the game; "Great Golf Debates" together with Jezz Ellwood of Golf Monthly and the history section of "The Ultimate Golf Book" together with Neil Tappin , also of Golf Monthly. 

Fergus once shanked a ball from just over Granny Clark's Wynd on the 18th of the Old Course that struck the St Andrews Golf Club and rebounded into the Valley of Sin, from where he saved par. Who says there's no golfing god?