It has been a brilliant year for amateurs turning professional in the world of golf. Akshay Bhatia is the latest to go down this path, and is certainly a name to remember.
In a year that has seen three former top amateur golfers take the professional ranks by storm, one other elite star is hoping to keep that trend alive for the rest of 2019. That star is Akshay Bhatia.
The 17-year-old Walker Cup phenom announced on Monday that he was set to make his professional debut this week on the PGA Tour at the Sanderson Farms Championship in Jackson, Mississippi.
The news came as a surprise to no one, as the talented young American, who was the fifth ranked amateur in the world last week, has routinely reiterated his intention to join the paid ranks after the Walker Cup. Bhatia is one of five members of the victorious US Walker Cup side turning pro, but the only one playing this week in Jackson.
That said, he is no stranger to doing things his own way, nor to making history in doing them.
As a teenager with nigh on 40,000 Instagram followers, Bhatia has long been in the spotlight thanks to his countless records as a junior golfer.
Bhatia’s CV is filled with titles and incredible moments like this tournament winning eagle at the Junior PGA Championship in 2018. With that chip-in, Bhatia became the first player ever to win the event twice, and in consecutive years to boot.
— PGA of America (@PGA) August 4, 2018
This astonishing junior career propelled Bhatia up the world amateur rankings, helping him become the youngest ever player to make a US Walker Cup side earlier this month.
Bhatia’s performance in the fabled amateur match included a dominant 4&2 singles win over Amateur Champion James Sugrue, a match where Bhatia started with four 3s in the first five holes.
But while the 17-year-old could lead every D1 college golf programme a merry dance over the next three months, Bhatia has long since decided he would forego higher education in pursuit of pro golf instead.
The ubiquitous demand for Bhatia’s signature then turns from the collegiate to the professional side of golf, with multiple companies already snapping up deals with the precocious Wake Forest native.
Callaway were quick to sign Bhatia to a multi-year equipment and bag deal earlier this week, while Lagerdère Sports agency also penned a deal with the young American.
Not to be found shy nor ill prepared for professional life, Bhatia even agreed to his deal with Lagerdère in May, long before his amateur status was revoked.
Starting at the Sanderson Farms, Bhatia will hope to follow in the footsteps of friend and fellow George Gankas stablemate Matthew Wolff in winning on the PGA Tour in double quick time.
And for those questioning whether Bhatia can truly make waves at the highest level, the answer is that he already has.
In his debut and lone appearance on the PGA Tour, a close MC at the Valspar Championship in March as an amateur, Bhatia sent some cheeky words in Jon Rahm’s direction and even claimed his intention was not just to make the cut, but to win the event.
Well, at least he’ll learn… right?