Akshay Bhatia (Caroline Norman/ Ocean Forest Golf Club)
With a playoff victory at the Jones Cup, top-ranked junior Akshay Bhatia
checked off a different kind of accomplishment. For the past year, Bhatia has been the king of junior golf. But finishing on top of a Jones Cup field that includes top juniors, college players and mid-amateurs is something different for the 17-year-old.
Bhatia won on Sunday when heavy rain wiped out the final round at Ocean Forest Golf Club in Sea Island, Ga. He and Davis Thompson
, a Georgia sophomore, were tied at 2 under after the second round, so the two teed off the first hole at 1 p.m. for a sudden-death playoff.
Bhatia immediately had the upper hand, landing his drive in the right rough while Thompson sent his left and into the water. With his penalty stroke, Thompson hit the green with his third shot and had 35 feet for par. When he missed, Bhatia was able to two-putt for par and the win.
For Bhatia, major victories have come at the Rolex Tournament of Champions, Junior PGA Championship, Polo Golf Junior Classic and Junior Invitational at Sage Valley over the past year. He was also runner-up at the Youth Olympic Games, Junior Players Championship and U.S. Junior. Bhatia is No. 1 in Golfweek
’s Junior Rankings and No. 12 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking.
Even though Bhatia has entered a handful of amateur events with older fields – like the Jones Cup – this is his first victory. It will bode well for Bhatia in terms of earning a potential Walker Cup spot for the 2019 match at Royal Liverpool in Hoylake, England. Bhatia was the only junior golfer selected to the 16-man practice squad in December.
Past that, however, Bhatia’s sights are on professional golf. Golfweek
reported late in 2018 that the Wake Forest, N.C.-based player has no plans to play college golf
. According to Golfweek
reporting, Bhatia hopes to go pro when he turns 18 in January 2020.
Bhatia works with Southern California-based swing coach George Gankas, who is popular among young, powerful up-and-comers. This week, Gankas and another student, Matthew Wolff, made headlines on the West Coast as Wolff made the cut
at the Waste Mangaement Phoenix Open and generally wowed fans with his unique swing.
Behind Thompson, first-round leader Will Grimmer ended up in a tie for third with Alex Fitzpatrick, the U.S. Amateur quarterfinalist and a freshman at Wake Forest. Grimmer, an Ohio State senior, had too many bogeys on Saturday and fell from his opening 68 to a second-round 75.
Fitzpatrick, the Englishman, went the other way. He logged six birdies in a second-round 69, which was five shots better than Friday’s 74.
Chandler Eaton and Stephen Franken tied for fifth at even par. Defending champion Garrett Barber, an LSU freshman, tied for ninth at 3 over.
ABOUT THE Jones Cup
The Jones Cup is probably the biggest of the
amateur majors in the United States, and the reason
is the venue and the strong U.S. and
international field. The past champions list is littered
with PGA Tour stars, including Justin Thomas,
Patrick Reed, Luke List, Kyle Stanley, Beau Hossler
This 54-hole individual stroke-play event,
in 2001, is played at Ocean Forest Golf Club.
The Rees Jones design opened in 1995 and has
the Georgia State Amateur Championship, the
Southern Amateur Championship and the 2001
Cup Match. The Jones Cup brings together
many of the finest amateurs from the United States
and abroad for a three-day competition.
The Jones Cup was born from a deep commitment to
amateur golf by the A.W. Jones family, who
founded the Cloister and Sea Island Golf Club in
The Sea Island Golf Club has played host to
seven USGA championships. The Jones Cup is yet
another extension of the family's strong
involvement in amateur golf.
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