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April 3, 2018
THE MODERATOR: Good morning, and welcome to all. Particularly want to welcome two first time participants in the Masters, Joaquin Niemann and Yuxin Lin. And for Augusta National, whose culture is steeped in the amateur status of Bobby Jones and all of his accomplishments, both of your achievements are very, very impressive to us can hear at Augusta.
Both of our guests have had great success in tournaments that have grown from Augusta National's grow the game initiative. Yuxin won the 2017 Asia Pacific Amateur championship last October in New Zealand, and Joaquin won in January of this year, 2018, the Latin American Amateur championship in his home country of Chile.
I'm going to ask each one of them a question, and then I'll turn it over to the media. Let me start with Yuxin. Yuxin, China seems to be on the move in the game of golf. And you've had an outstanding record. In the last year, four of the five top finishes were Chinese in the tournament, and China was the only country to have three AAC champions. So based on your personal experience, what's the formula for China moving so strongly in the field of golf?
YUXIN LIN: I think that the game in China is just getting bigger and bigger. I can see a lot of young kids playing, starting to play golf when they were like five or six. So back home where I started playing golf, there's only 300 kids in the whole country, or maybe 400, but now it's definitely grown a lot. I can see a bunch of kids on the range every day at practice and, yeah, just getting the game in China is just getting really popular. Everyone seems to enjoy it and they love it.
THE MODERATOR: Great. Joaquin, your country also has great success and you have personally as the No. 1 ranked amateur in the world. How do you feel in competing in your first Masters with that No. 1 status?
JOAQUIN NIEMANN: Yeah, it feels really nice. It's the thirdChilean that is playing the last four years thanks to the Latin America Amateur. Yeah, it feels really nice to be here, it's like a dream come true. Also really nice to end my amateur career to be at the Masters and hope to be back for next year.
THE MODERATOR: Great. Well, we welcome you both, and we'll be following you with great interest. So let's open it up to the media.
Q. I was curious, question for both of you actually individually, how important is the Masters back in your home countries, and how much attention is paid to the tournament back there and what's your sense of the attention that's being paid to it now with you both playing this year in the Masters?
YUXIN LIN: The Masters tournament's one of the biggest events of golf, especially back in China. Everyone's really pumped up about the Masters. And I kind of grew up hearing like a lot about the Masters, about how great it is. So it's really a pleasure and I really wanted to enjoy this week and hopefully some good results.
Q. Joaquin, the same for you in terms of Chile and how important and interested people are in this tournament back home.
JOAQUIN NIEMANN: Yeah, golf back in Chile is not so big as any other sport, but there's still a lot of people that play golf that love the Masters. I mean, it's the best tournament for golf. And also for me, when I was a child, it was a dream to be here. And when I was like four or five years old, I was still watching the Masters on TV. So it feels nice to be here.
Q. For both of you guys. What is your first memory of watching this tournament, whether it be on TV or a particular year or a particular moment or player? What's your first memory?
YUXIN LIN: I'm not really sure about the first memory, but I think the most important area or the one that I remember the most is probably that shot on 10 that Bubba hit from the trees on the right side. That's kind of like the biggest memory for me.
Q. Have you tried that shot out?
YUXIN LIN: Not really. I mean, I haven't hit it there. So hopefully I can give it a try next tournament.
JOAQUIN NIEMANN: Yeah, I mean, I like to see a lot of videos on YouTube from the Masters, like the 2000 Masters or the 2005, when Tiger won. I like to see like the shots that they do and try to learn something.
But yeah, it's really interesting to see some videos of like 10, 15 years ago and see how the course has been the same for always.
Q. I wonder how many times have you practiced the course already. And if you have, your plan already set up?
JOAQUIN NIEMANN: Yeah, I played two times like two weeks ago, and I also played on Saturday and Sunday of last week. I feel ready. The course is perfect, can't get any better, and my game is also feeling really good. So just to be patient and try to keep the nerves out and play my game and have fun.
Q. Curious if either of you guys stayed in the Crow's Nest last night and what were your thoughts of it.
YUXIN LIN: I didn't stay up there last night. There's only five beds. So I think it's kind of full for the night. So planning to do that tonight or one other night, I guess.
JOAQUIN NIEMANN: I stayed there last night withDoug Ghim and two more amateurs. It was pretty nice. There was a lot of history inside there. I can see a picture from Sergio when he won the amateur and also Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, and just sleeping in the same bed they slept in feels nice. So once I get home I can say that I slept in that bed.
Q. For both of you, tell me how you got started playing golf and what pros, if any, you kind of tried to model your game or looked up to when you were learning how to play.
YUXIN LIN: So I started playing golf when I was like six. My dad took me to the range, and then just kind of fell in love with the game. I really enjoyed watching Tiger play when I was like really little. So, yeah, that's ‑‑ yeah, I wanted to hit golf balls like Tiger.
JOAQUIN NIEMANN: For me, I start playing golf when I was like four years old. My dad was a golfer, but he's not so good. I started beating him like when I was 12, so‑‑ but, yeah, I was like four years old, and since there I can't stop playing golf.
Q. Have you had an opportunity to meet Tiger this week or talk to him at all?
YUXIN LIN: No, I haven't seen Tiger this week. I saw him I think it was two weeks ago. He was having a practice round, and I hit a poor tee shot on 1 and hit like a 50‑yard hook with a gap wedge in front of him, but didn't really get a chance to say hi to him.
Q. For both of you guys, we have heard about how the game of golf is growing in your countries, but what would a win in a Major do, do you think, for golf in your respective countries, and what would it feel like for you two personally to be the drought breaker, the first person to do that?
YUXIN LIN: I think it's definitely going to be a Major impact on the sport back in my country. Like winning a Major is like a totally different thing than winning like a PGA TOUR event or a European Tour event, it's like definitely bigger and it means a lot to the crowd and to the media. So hopefully, yeah, hopefully I'm the one to break that.
JOAQUIN NIEMANN: Also from Chile has‑‑ there's been nobody who won a PGA TOUR or a Major, so I hope I can be the first one and win a couple of them.
Q. In connection a little bit with that, you both come from countries where golf can be not that accessible, or exclusive. How much do you think you being here can change that and what would you wish would change in your countries to make golf more popular?
YUXIN LIN: I think it's a great motivation for us to work harder and try to break through.
JOAQUIN NIEMANN: Yeah, for my country, there's many, many little kids that try to be like me or another amateurs that have been playing in this tournament. And also the Latin America Amateur helps a lot to grow the game in Latin America and also in Chile. You can see this year in Chile there was a lot of people following me in the last group. I think that that is nice to see the little guys, to motivate and practice every day to someday be here playing in the Masters.
Q. What are your feelings, your deep feelings and thoughts the first time you stand up on the first tee of Augusta?
YUXIN LIN: It's definitely a dream come true for me. I dreamed about playing at Augusta and the Masters when I was like six. So basically when I started playing golf.
It's just like an amazing feeling. It's like a dream come true for me.
Q. Nervous or anything?
YUXIN LIN: Sorry?
Q. You weren't‑‑ you both weren't nervous at that time?
YUXIN LIN: Yeah. (Laughter.) Kind of.
JOAQUIN NIEMANN: Yeah, I stand on the first time like two weeks ago, and it's totally different than on Monday and Tuesday that there's a lot of people.
But I feel great. And, I mean, the people are here to watch you and enjoy your game, so just going to try to do my best.
Q. If you win the Amateur Cup, what's next for you to finish your amateur career?
JOAQUIN NIEMANN: Yeah, it's‑‑ it should be a dream for me to win the amateur trophy, and also to end my career like as an amateur champion in the Masters also great. And hope that one day, if I win this tournament as an amateur, I can win it as a pro.
Q. Have you had a chance to talk with Sergio who was the best amateur a long time ago? What sort of advice has he given you?
JOAQUIN NIEMANN: Yeah, he's a really nice guy. He's really nice guy with me, I mean, he talked a lot of how was his experience when he was an amateur here, how was the Crow's Nest. He told me that you got to stay there because it's a nice experience. He had a picture of him there. And I hope that one day I have the same picture there with the amateur trophy.
Q. Could you just run me through your plans post Masters. You said that this is your last amateur event. Where will you be playing? What do you have lined up? And also for you Yuxin.
JOAQUIN NIEMANN: Yeah, I'm playing this as my last tournament as an amateur and I will turn pro. My first tournament would be the Valero Texas Open. I got invited to that tournament and also to the Memorial and the AT&T Byron Nelson.
So I'm really thankful for giving me the chance to be there and to try to start my new career there.
YUXIN LIN: So I committed to USC, so I'm probably going to go there next fall. And then my plans are, after the Masters, probably some European Tour events back in Asia. PGA TOUR China, China TOUR events, and then hopefully get some invites in England before the British Open.
Q. What does it mean for you to be the Latin American world champion in your history?
JOAQUIN NIEMANN: Yeah, the Latin America Championship is the biggest event in Latin America, of course. It gives you the best prize you can get for winning, getting to the Masters. You can't get any better than that. So, I mean, for the game mostly it's really good because it helps little kids to start practicing and try to grow up their game in the whole country and whole continent.
Q. Can you talk about when you were learning the game, what, how, what was the access like for a kid wanting to learn golf in China and then compare it to now. Was it a lot harder back then if you really wanted to become a golfer to get access to courses and clubs and instruction and stuff?
YUXIN LIN: Yeah, it's definitely improved a lot. So back when I started, the facilities and stuff were kind of bad. We were hitting like off mats, and it's really hard to find a property where you can actually hit off grass, so it's going to be like really expensive.
But nowadays the China Golf Association, they're starting to build some practice bases. So, yeah, they're wonderful facilities, it's just easier for the kids right now to practice.
Q. And if I could follow up, how close are you with Cheng Jin? Obviously he plays at USC, played in the Masters, and have you gotten any advice from him?
YUXIN LIN: Yeah, we're actually really close. He's like one of the reasons why I committed to USC. And he just really wanted me to enjoy this week and have fun out here.
Q. For both of you, who would you like to practice with in these two remaining days?
YUXIN LIN: I'm probably going to play with Tony Finau because we're working with the same coach, and it just makes things really easy for our coach. He doesn't have to like go around all over the course. So probably going to play with Tony.
JOAQUIN NIEMANN: I played this morning with Sergio, Jim and Rafa. I think I would like to play with Tiger also, but I don't think that's going to be possible, but who I can take a good pairing for the next four days.
Q. Do you come with a team and do you have your coach here or any more people?
JOAQUIN NIEMANN: Yeah, we're a big group. It is my coach here, all my family, and a lot of friends back from Chile. So we're a big group, and so it will be fun.
Q. Are you going to play the par‑3 contest? And I saw your Chilean compatriot, Matias Dominguez, in 2015 with a chance to win, and he missed the green on purpose, not to winning, because it's a legend that if you win the par‑3 contest‑‑ what will be your position on that situation?
JOAQUIN NIEMANN: No, I don't think that that's going to affect me if I win the par‑3. I mean, it is still just the same, but of course if I can win the par‑3, I will try to and then try to do my best also for the rest of the week.
THE MODERATOR: All right, thank you all for being here, and good luck to both of you. We'll be following you with great enthusiasm and interest. Thank you.
YUXIN LIN: Thank you.
JOAQUIN NIEMANN: Thank you.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports