Michael Thorbjornsen and Akshay Bhatia (USGA photo)
SPRINGFIELD, N.J. (July 20, 2018) – The stakes are a little higher this year at the U.S. Junior now that a U.S. Open exemption is on the line. Akshay Bhatia and Michael Thorbjornsen will play for it on Saturday at Baltusrol Golf Club.
Bhatia is a 16-year-old from Wake Forest, N.C., who already padded his resume this year with the Junior Invitational at Sage Valley title and the AJGA’s Polo Golf Junior Classic title (which he won by 10 shots). Thorbjornsen, also 16, is a Wellesley, Mass., native who won the 2016 Drive, Chip and Putt National Final. He also has posted six top-10 finishes in major junior events over the past year.
Both have expertly navigated the U.S. Junior match-play bracket – Bhatia from the No. 12 seed and Thorbjornsen from the No. 7 seed. Thorbjornsen, especially, has been dominant. None of his first four matches made it past the 16th hole.
The duo advanced to Saturday’s 36-hole final after winning two matches on Friday. Bhatia, of Wake Forest, N.C., never trailed on Friday, winning a tight match in the quarterfinals over Alejandro Madariaga, 1 up, before jumping out to a 3-up lead through nine holes over Cole Hammer on his way to winning their semifinal match, 4 and 2.
“I love this golf course. I mean, you have to shape shots, you have to put in the correct spots; you have to make a lot of putts out here,” Bhatia told the USGA. “Every time you beat someone it boosts your confidence, especially someone who has done such great things this year and over the past couple of years.”
Thorbjornsen defeated Joe Highsmith, 4 and 3, in the morning. He would have to work a lot harder in the afternoon, playing from behind for much of his semifinal match with Cameron Sisk before ultimately prevailing in 21 holes.
“That was quite the amazing 21 holes. Cameron and I really didn't let up at one point throughout our match,” said Thorbjornsen. “I mean, just being on TV for one more day, and playing this amazing golf course for 36 more holes, that's amazing. I just can't wait until tomorrow. I'm playing with one of my best friends, Akshay, and it should be a lot of fun.”
Information from the USGA used in this report
ABOUT THE U.S. Junior Amateur
While it is not the
competition, the U.S. Junior Amateur is
considered the premier junior competition,
having been around since 1948. The event
open to male golfers who have not
their 19th birthday prior to the close of
competition and whose USGA Handicap
does not exceed 6.4. The U.S. Junior is
14 national championship conducted
by the USGA, 10 of which are strictly for
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