No. 1-ranked junior golfer Akshay Bhatia to make Web.com Tour debut in Alabama
April 17, 2019
By Zephyr Melton , PGATOUR.COM
- April 17, 2019
- Bhatia made his professional debut last month at the Valspar Championship. (Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)
Akshay Bhatia, the No. 1-ranked junior player in the world, will make his Web.com Tour debut this week at the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail Championship in Prattville, Alabama. The 17-year-old amateur shot 4-under 68 on Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail’s Legislator Course in the Monday qualifier for this inaugural event.
Bhatia missed the cut at the Valspar Championship last month in his PGA TOUR debut after getting into the field on a sponsor’s exemption. He fired rounds of 74-72 to come up three strokes short of playing on the weekend.
This week, Bhatia battled his way into the field on his own merit.
“I’ve done Monday qualifiers forever,” Bhatia said. “And to finally successfully do it … Having four days to play some good golf. It’s awesome.”
The young Bhatia has made a name for himself on the junior circuits in the last few years, winning AJGA Player of the Year honors in 2018. But now he is beginning his preparations for a jump to professional golf after high school. Bhatia has made it clear that he will forgo college and turn professional immediately after high school.
“I'm stepping up and I'm performing at the level I need to perform,” Bhatia said at the Valspar Championship. “I feel like I have a really good plan and I'm ready to do it.”
There will be a significant age gap in the range between the oldest competitor and Bhatia this week. The oldest competitor in the field is two-time PGA TOUR winner Frank Lickliter. Bhatia was not even born when Lickliter won his first PGA TOUR event at the 2001 Kemper Insurance Open, and he was just an infant when the elder statesman earned his last TOUR victory in 2003.
But being the youngest competitor in the field hasn’t deterred any of Bhatia’s confidence for the week. When asked about his goals, Bhatia beamed with the confidence he shared with the media at the Valspar Championship.
“It’s kind of the same thing I said at the Valspar,” Bhatia said. “Go out and try and win, because it’s what I’m here to do. And I’ve got the opportunity to do it.”