Dissecting Akshay Bhatia's Golfing Journey Over The Years

Dissecting Akshay Bhatia's Golfing Journey Over The Years

Dissecting Akshay Bhatia's golfing journey over the years, having secured a playoff victory Valero Texas Open.

PTIUpdated: Monday, April 08, 2024, 04:46 PM IST
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Akshay Bhatia. | (Image Credits: Twitter)

His dad loved playing golf so the initiation was hardly the tough part for Akshay Bhatia. What did turn out to be tough was trying to convince his parents, especially mom, that skipping college to turn professional was actually a good idea.

They aren't complaining now, certainly. After all, the 22-year-old Indian-American has just sealed an appearance at the prestigious Augusta Masters this week with a playoff win in the Valero Texas Open, and along with it a pay cheque in excess of USD 1.6 million.

"My mom's birthday was April 1 and her wish was to go to the Masters," the youngster said after the exciting win, his second on the PGA Tour.

It's a promise that he made to her long back while dreaming about being one of the best golf players in the world. Bhatia would tell his mother, Renu, that he would take her to the Masters, the most coveted of all Majors. This year, he said the same thing to his fiancee of three years, Presleigh Schultz.

Now Renu, his father Sonny Bhatia, Schultz and most of his family will be at Augusta, 10 years after he played at the Augusta National Country Club's famous Drive, Chip and Putt (DCP) in its inaugural edition.

Akshay Bhatia's tryst with Golf over the years:

Bhatia was born in Northridge, a suburb of Los Angeles. However, his parents, are from India and they lived in Delhi before moving out. His sister Rhea also plays the sport.

The family moved to Raleigh, North Carolina around 2011. The facilities were better and like many golfing kids of his age, Bhatia was home schooled. He also made it to the U S Walker Cup team.

He turned pro in 2019 deciding against taking the college golf route like many top stars. That shook his parents. They wanted him to play golf, but also complete education in the conventional manner.

So, they had mixed feelings and Renu went on to reveal later that she did try to dissuade him.

It didn't work then and she would be glad about it now.

At the Texas Open, Bhatia led by four strokes after three days, made it a six-shot lead, before Denny McCarthy, with a solid back-nine performance, rallied from nowhere to a tie for a play-off with eight birdies, seven of them in the last seven holes.

The drama was not over.

Bhatia seemingly dislocated his shoulder in the play-off, and needed medical attention, just as McCarthy, after a sublime show, put his shot into the water and out of the race.

Bhatia got his medical attention, hit the next shot close enough to roll in another birdie and with it win the Valero Texas Open, a ticket to the Masters this week, spots in all USD 20 million Signature events and Tour exemption till end of 2026.

Bhatia will not be the only Indian-American at the Masters. The other one, who made it with a win at Fortinet Championships on the PGA Tour last year, is Sahith Theegala, whose parents come from Andhra Pradesh. Both Theegala and Bhatia are a big hit on the PGA Tour.

Schultz, who hails from Mississippi, met Bhatia in Texas in 2021. It wasn't long before he invited her to a golf tournament. She was a student who had never been to a golf event but she was drawn to the sport thanks to Bhatia, who became her fiance last year.

"He believes in himself more than anyone," Schultz says of the man.

She also said that Bhatia had been telling her all year that they would be going to the Masters. Even though the confirmation came in the last week before the showpiece, he managed to keep this promise. Bhatia's pro start was not easy. He missed a lot of cuts. Yet, Phil Mickelson, one of the legends of the game, took the young southpaw under his wings.

Akshay Bhatia's breakthrough 2022:

Soon after, Bhatia was being looked after by Mickelson's management team. That was big for youngster, who like his idol, was left-handed. His early success came only on mini Tours -- 'Swing Thought Tours' and 'GPro Tour'.

Then came the big breakthrough in 2022 when he won the Korn Ferry title at The Bahamas Great Exhuma Classic and Schultz was by his side. He was the third youngest winner there.

Last year, when the world was focussed on the Open, one of the four Majors, Bhatia won the Barracuda Championships. The win came in the same week as the big event -- the Open -- and he made it to the PGA Tour, as expected.

Bhatia has not forgotten his Indian roots either and wants to play in the country. He even got an invite for the 2020 Hero Indian Open.

But then COVID came and he never got a chance to fulfill that aspiration. The tournament itself got cancelled. Last known, Bhatia still wants to come to India.

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