22-year-old Chilean, Joaquin Niemann has been playing with an extra incentive in the last few weeks and stated he is "playing for something bigger". His one-month-old cousin Rafitia faces a battle for his life as he has been diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy, a rare neuromuscular disease that effects roughly 1 in 1000 new-borns.
With access to the required medicine, named Zolgensma, scarce and costly, Niemann is playing to raise the appropriate funds. The treatment is expected to cost over $2 million USD, 33 times the national per capita income in Chile.
Niemann is using his platform to help kick-start the donations for his young cousin, pledging to donate all his winnings from last weeks RSM Classic and next weeks Mayakoba Golf Classic. On top of this, for each birdie he will add $5000, as well as $10 000 for every eagle. A T-44 finish last week for Niemann, accompanied with 21 birdies and an eagle, was enough to raise over $150 000 to the cause.
Niemann is determined to help, “Just thinking about him, I love him and his family, they’re really nice,” Niemann said. “I think it’s kind of like a mission that for me to help out for them.”.
With fellow tour pros including Rickie Fowler endorsing the campaign, there is increasing traction towards the movement. Despite over $60 000 being raised on GoFundMe page, there is still much left to be done. A link to the fund raiser can be seen here.