Before they turned pro: Akshay Bhatia the teenage phenom, growing up fast on Tour
30 Apr 2023
by Jim Young of

see also: Akshay Bhatia Rankings

- USGA photo
- USGA photo

Akshay Bhatia keeps working his way up the PGA Tour ladder on his own terms. The teenage phenom who won on the Korn Ferry Tour at age 19 just finished T4 at the PGA Tour Mexico Open at Vidanta.

He got valuable experience this weekend, playing with World No. 1 Jon Rahm and Tony Finau on Sunday as he tries to ditch the status "Special Temporary Membership" and score the Tour card he's always dreamed of owning. Below is an article that sums up Bhatia's junior and amateur career, for anyone still wondering how this lanky lefthander got where he is today.

For the better part of two years, Akshay Bhatia was the king of junior amateur golf, piling up an impressive collection of major victories while being a fixture on U.S. teams in international competitions.

As a 15-year-old, Bhatia won the 2017 Boys’ Junior Championship by three strokes with a 22-under par performance at the Country Club of St. Albans, where he shot 61 in the second round, eclipsing the course record by two strokes.

Four major wins followed in 2018, including the AJGA Polo Junior Classic, where he shot a course-record 7-under 64 in the second round en route to a 10-stroke victory. He also successfully defended his Boys’ Junior PGA Championship after he holed out a 40-foot chip shot for an eagle to win by one stroke and added victories at the Polo Golf Junior Classic and Junior Invitational at Sage Valley.

Bhatia began his 2019 season with a victory at the Jones Cup at the Ocean Forest Golf Club in Sea Island, Ga. followed by a win at the Dustin Johnson World Junior at TPC Myrtle Beach, where he lapped the field for a six-stroke victory.

He went 3-0-0 at the 2017 Junior Presidents Cup and was part of victorious teams at the 2018 Junior Ryder and 2019 Walker Cup events.

At the end of the 2019 season, Bhatia, a slight of build lefthander of Indian descent, was the undisputed top-ranked player in the Golfweek’s junior rankings and climbed to as high as No. 12 in the World Amateur Golf Rankings. Instead of extending his amateur career in college, the 17-year-old made the decision to turn professional.

He made his pro debut at the 2019 Sanderson Farms Championship and missed the cut in all six of his PGA Tour events. In 2020, he made four cuts in 11 starts with his best finish coming at the Safeway Open at Silverado, where he tied for ninth.

Welcome to the Tour, kid.

Two years later, Bhatia, now 19, got a step closer to earning his PGA TOUR card after winning the Bahamas Great Exuma Classic at Sandals Emerald Bay, becoming the third-youngest player ever to win on the Korn Ferry Tour behind Sungjae Im and Jason Day. Trailing by three shots entering the final round, Bhatia carded a final-round 7-under 65 to defeat Paul Haley II by two strokes.

“I’m just excited to play next week,” the then 19-year-old told Golf. “I have never had a schedule. Just to be able to have a schedule and obviously look forward to playing certain events … there’s just all those things I get to look forward to this year. I would like to win three and get promoted to the PGA Tour, so I guess that’s my goal.”

As the spring of 2023, Bhatia enjoys "Special Temporary Membership" on the PGA Tour and will likely earn enough money to abandon that title at the end of the season. A win in Mexico, or anywhere else, would do the trick.

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The Akshay Bhatia File
Born: January 31, 2002 in Northridge, Calif.
Parents: Sonny Bhatia and Renu Bhatia
Residence: Winston-Salem, NC

Major Junior Victories
2016 AJGA-CJGT Junior
2016 IZOD AJGA Championship
2017 David Love III Junior Open
2017-18 Boys’ Junior PGA Championship
2017 AJGA Junior at Ford’s Colony
2018 AJGA Polo Golf Junior Classic
2018 Junior Invitational at Sage Valley
2018 Rolex Tournament of Champions
2019 Jones Cup

International Competition
2017 Junior Presidents Cup
2018 Junior Ryder Cup
2019 Walker Cup

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