Playing for cousin, Joaquin Niemann near Mayakoba lead

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Joaquin Niemann is playing for more than himself this week at the Mayakoba Classic.

Two weeks ago, the Chilean tearfully revealed that his 1-month-old cousin, Rafita Calderon, is battling a rare neuromuscular disease and requires a treatment that could drastically improve his chances of survival and quality of life. The problem is that the potential cure is wildly expensive (a single injection costs $2.1 million) and must be delivered in the first 100 days of life to be most effective. For more information, check out this story.

The family set up a GoFundMe page to help raise money, and Niemann donated his earnings from the RSM Classic, plus $5,000 for every birdie and $10,000 for each eagle made, to the cause. Playing with a heavy heart that week, he tied for 44th and banked $21,450.

Niemann playing with heavy heart this week

Mayakoba Golf Classic: Full-field scores | Full coverage


Niemann also pledged to donate his prize money from the Mayakoba, and he’s off to a strong start. In wet and windy conditions, he fired a 5-under 66 to share the early lead.

“It’s always extra motivation trying to play for him and get some more money for him,” he said after the round.

This week Niemann left a bag of ribbons in the locker room and on the first and 10th tees for players to wear in support of Rafita. The 22-year-old said he was humbled by the response from his peers.

“All the guys here on Tour are being really nice, using the little ribbons we’re having to support Rafita,” Niemann said. “He’s fighting now in Chile, so we’ve got to work our way to help him.”