Akshay Bhatia had plenty of skeptics when, at 17 years old, he opted to skip college and headed straight to the pros.
A “can’t-miss kid,” Bhatia missed 14 of his first 18 cuts on the PGA Tour, but a T9 at the 2020 Safeway Open, his eighth start on the circuit, earned him enough non-PGA Tour member FedEx Cup points to punch a ticket to 2021 Korn Ferry Tour Finals (and by extension, conditional status on the KFT in 2022).
And wouldn’t you know it, in his first start on the circuit as a member, a few days shy of his 20th birthday and with his Instagram model girlfriend who knows “nothing about golf,” Bhatia took home his first Tour-sanctioned win at the Bahamas Great Exuma Classic. Akshay won on the strength of a bogey-free final-round 65 capped off by a 72nd-hole approach that rattled the flagstick.
- “It’s crazy, the first year I turned pro is one of the worst years I’ve had playing golf,” he said. “I struggled mentally. I missed every cut. I had a lot of people expecting me to play well and it didn’t happen. But with Covid hitting, obviously, it was really hard for everyone, but it was a blessing for me because I got to sit back, talk to my coach, realize where I’m at in my life. After that, you know, my life’s kind of – I’ve just climbed the mountain slowly and slowly and slowly.”
Bhatia is now in position to live up to his prodigy billing, sitting atop The 25, the KFT’s points list that delivers PGA Tour cards to the circuit’s top performers. While that Tour dream is still likely a year away (unless Bhatia wins twice more this year, earning an instant Battlefield Promotion to the PGA Tour), Bhatia can take heart in the fact that he joins Jason Day and Sungjae Im as the only teenage winners in KFT history.
SwingU Versus Ambassadors Start Strong
Five SwingU Versus Ambassadors kicked off their seasons in the Bahamas this week, with J.J. Grey finishing T19 in his first-ever KFT start. Grey shot rounds of 75-67-72-70 to finish at 4-under par while sporting a SwingU towel on his bag all week.
Other ambassadors to make the cut included Evan Harmeling (T28), John VanDerLaan (T33), Nick Voke (T38) and Dawson Armstrong (T48).
The Korn Ferry Tour will stay in the Bahamas for this week’s Bahamas Great Abaco Classic, which will again run from Sunday-Wednesday.