There isn’t a male junior golfer in the game who has put together a better body of work in the past year than Akshay Bhatia.
For Bhatia, major victories at the Rolex Tournament of Champions, Junior PGA Championship, Polo Golf Junior Classic and Junior Invitational at Sage Valley in 2018 – plus runner-up finishes at the Youth Olympic Games, Junior Players Championship and U.S. Junior – all contributed to the No. 1 position in Golfweek
’s Junior Rankings.
It’s all impressive stuff, but now it’s time for Bhatia, 17, to step up to the next level. You might say the first move came late in 2018, when Golfweek
first reported Bhatia’s desire to forego college in favor of professional golf.
That anticipated move is still a year away, so for now, Bhatia remains very much within the amateur realm. A week after winning the Jones Cup – which should all but guarantee him a U.S. Walker Cup pick (especially considering he already attended a practice session for team hopefuls) – Golf Digest published a one-on-one with Bhatia as part of its weekly podcast.
Here are the highlights:
On his increasing fame
Among the topics were Bhatia’s recent turn under the spotlight of the Whistle Sports docuseries called No Days Off that follows upcoming young athletes.
“It’s definitely cool just to have my name a part of some of these amazing athletes. Golf is not a huge sport – compared to football or basketball or baseball or soccer – but it’s definitely cool to get some recognition in this game,” he told interviewer Alex Myers.
Bhatia detailed one that includes as much as two hours on the putting green, time on the range, 18 holes of golf and sometimes additional work on the range or on his own TrackMan.
“I have a really solid plan every day.”
On the future
It’s no secret that Bhatia isn’t going to college. As a family, the Bhatias didn’t struggle over it. Akshay admitted he’s not “a big fan of school” and would rather be outside than studying. The social aspect was the hardest part to sacrifice.
“At the end of the day I know what I want to do and I know what I can do.”
Bhatia thought his chances of learning to shoot crazy low scores (deep in the double digits) are better on the Web.com Tour and in Monday qualifiers as opposed to in college golf.
Bhatia already does something that’s very Tour-esque: he has a bevy of coaches, among them George Gankas, the Southern California-based teacher who also works with Matthew Wolff, and Allen Terrell, who also coaches Dustin Johnson.
“I make my own golf swing from what I hear from George or Allen,” he told Myers.
On the next level
In one of the most interesting parts of the interview, Bhatia described a PGA Tour Monday qualifier from the point of a 17-year-old and one phrase stuck out: “You can’t breathe.” That was in reference to the non-existent margin for error when so many good players are lumped together for just 18 holes.
Asked to compare himself to a current Tour player, Bhatia chose Justin Thomas, mostly because of size.
“He’s pretty small but he hits it a long way and it’s kind of the same thing for me," Bhatia told Myers. "He’s a really, really consistent putter and that’s probably the strength of my game for sure. A lot of it, is swing-wise, he’s a lot like me. Mentally, he’ll get fired up but he’s a pretty collected and calm most of the round.”
The full interview can be found here.