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Jamie Nieto - Graduate, Golf Academy of America in Myrtle Beach

Aug 29, 2014

Golf Academy of America in Myrtle Beach Graduate Jamie Nieto Thrives After Life-Threatening Injury

Golf Academy of America Graduate Jaime Nieto

High school golf star Jamie Nieto always planned to be a teacher and golf coach. But one year into his college experience, an accident left him badly burned and in a medically induced coma. He surprised doctors by overcoming the muscular atrophy and shooting an 81 in his first recreational round after the accident.

An Aug. 8, 2014 story on profiled Nieto's journey, from his injury to his time at Golf Academy of America in Myrtle Beach, and later becoming a club professional at Pheasant Run in St. Charles, Ill. Excerpts from the article follow:


Nieto, 30, is hovering around a zero handicap both on the course and as a burn survivor. He tries to tear away from administrative work when he can to fit in range time and is a regular in Illinois PGA section events.

He shot 81 In his first recreational round after his accident – in the spring of 2005 – and boasts a career-best of 65 at Pheasant Run.

And to think, in his first days at Loyola University's burn center Nieto heard he'd likely never play golf again.

"Every time I've been faced with something I want to do, I go after it," Nieto said. "If you tell me you can't to it, I'm going to do it just to prove you wrong. And that's the big thing about a doctor saying you'll probably never play golf again. I was set out to prove him wrong. That's pretty much my drive, is if you tell me something's impossible or 'No, you can't do it,' I'm going to do it just to show you I can."

With the support of friends and family — including fellow burn victim Tony Gonzalez of Naperville, with whom he connected at Loyola — Nieto pressed through his hardships. He worked with a physical therapist to get on the range as soon as possible.

At the time, he still had not undergone reconstructive surgery on his right thumb, so he worked with the therapist to create a method to help extend the thumb and allow him to hold a club. Simultaneously, Nieto finished and furthered his studies. With two associates degrees — one each from Triton and the Golf Academy of America in Myrtle Beach, S.C. — and a bachelor's and master's from Virginia College online, he jokes his sheepskins add up to a PhD.

"A lot of PhD people get mad when I say that," Nieto grinned.

Through everything, Nieto clings to his sense of humor, sharing in laughs with his family, friends and girlfriend of three years.

"I've never seen him actually get down or anything like that," Pheasant Run assistant pro David Span said. "He's always upbeat."

Members often ask Nieto if he can sneak out with their groups for a few holes. Span, Nieto's friend before they became colleagues, always is there to offer feedback or provide a sounding board.

"That's kind of what I was aiming for when I started my career in the golf business, was to be that professional at a course," Nieto said. "I mean, sure, there's days it will wear on you. But — and I know it sounds cliche — I enjoy coming to work every day.