Bhatia, 17, Monday qualifies into's RTJ Championship
16 Apr 2019
by Julie Williams of

see also: Akshay Bhatia Rankings

Akshay Bhatia (Photo courtesy Chris King/DJ Junior)
Akshay Bhatia (Photo courtesy Chris King/DJ Junior)

When Akshay Bhatia tees it up at the Tour’s RTJ Golf Trail Championship this week, it will be his second professional start in the span of a month. For the 17-year-old amateur, this one came the hard way.

Bhatia, of Wake Forest, N.C., has played a handful of PGA Tour and Tour qualifiers over the past year. On Monday, he got through for the first time. It took a 4-under 68 to earn the last of six available spots. Bhatia was the only amateur to qualify, and was one of only two in the field.

“It’s such a bear,” Bhatia told last month on the subject of Monday qualifiers. “You have 18 holes to hit 63 shots. You have to play so well, you can’t make any mistakes and everything has to go your way.”

Bhatia got away with a few more than 63 on Monday, but the point remains: This route is not for the faint of heart.

Bhatia made his PGA Tour debut last month at the Valspar Championship. He played on a sponsor exemption, and while he didn’t make the cut, his game held up and it offered a major learning curve. The Walker Cup hopeful is firmly on the record as wanting to forego college and turn professional upon turning 18.

Related: Bhatia checking all the boxes on the fast track to pro life

As Bhatia dabbles in the next level, it has helped him at his current level. He won the Jones Cup to start the year, arguably the biggest amateur victory of his career. Next week, after making his Tour start, he will attempt a title defense at the Sage Valley Junior Invitational, among the most prestigious junior events in the game.

“At the end of the day you just have to realize that even if you miss it, you can still make par and that’s taught me a lot because I can put myself in bad spots but I can still make par,” he said. “That’s kind of what Mondays are about.”

Now Bhatia gets to see what the rest of the week is about. Bhatia will tee off at 11:50 a.m. in the first round alongside JT Griffin and Andrew Buchannan.

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