15-year-old Oliver Betschart in field at PGA Tour Bermuda Butterfield Championship
06 Nov 2023
by Sean Melia of AmateurGolf.com
Oliver Betschart (Bernews.com)
Competitive golf is often about benchmarks. For many talented amateurs, a professional event might seem like a pipedream.
15-year-old Oliver Betschart turned the dream into a reality with an impressive 68 in the third and final round of the PGA Tour's Bermuda Butterfield qualifier to grab one of three spots for the event that will be played on his home island on November 9.
This isn't just any qualifier, as golfers tee it up over 54 holes for three available spots at Port Royal Golf Club. Betschart might have had a leg up on the competition, as he became the youngest club champion at Port Royal this year. In addition, Betschart has played in this gauntlet before, missing qualification for the same PGA Tour event last year by a single shot.
Betschart arrived at his home course with some work to do in the final round. He shot rounds of 75 and 73 and sat six shots off the lead. The blustery day sent scores ballooning, however, Betschart's 68 was the second best round of the day, and one of only two scores in the 60s. Eric West, another amateur, shot 66, to win the qualifier.
The strong final round from Betschart was highlighted by three birdies on his back nine, as he chased down the top three. Back-to-back birdies on hole Nos. 14 and 15 were vital.
He maintained his momentum and kept his chance alive on the 16th.
“I made a good 15-footer at 16 to save par then on 18 I had that really tricky downhill for birdie, and that was just kind of the breaking point there," Betschart said to The Royal Gazzette.
However, after signing his scorecard and posting his 216 total, there was one player who could ruin Betschart's dream. Chaka DeSilva needed a birdie on the 18th hole to force a playoff, but he couldn't make his putt.
“This year was going to be the year. I’ve played well and knew it was happening,” Betschart said. “I have been very close the last couple of years and just knew if I was patient one would happen.”
Wise words from a player who will generate a bit of buzz on November 9 when he tees it up with players who could be more than 30 years older than him. Last year, Bermudan golfing legend Kim Swan, who is 65 teed it up in the Butterfield.
Betschart travels to Texas to play in a lot of Southern Texas PGA Junior Golf Tour events.
Betschart will be the youngest player to compete on the PGA Tour since 2014. He'll be the fifth-youngest since 2000.
Michelle Wie (twice), Tianlang Guan (six times), Andy Zhang (2012 U.S. Open) and Lorens Chan (2009 Sony Open in Hawaii) were younger.