Indian-origin golfer Akshay Bhatia is reaching new heights in his professional career.
The 21-year-old, who turned pro in 2019 at age 17, has been no stranger to adversity. He defied conventional wisdom as he turned pro in his teens, forgoing a more traditional college route. By finishing runner-up at the recent Puerto Rico Open, Bhatia accrued 165 non-member FedExCup points, pushing his season-long total to 230 non-member points, well past the threshold to secure Special Temporary Membership – and the ability to accept unlimited sponsor exemptions – for the remainder of the 2022-23 Tour season.
Ten minutes before he began the final round of the Puerto Rico Open, Akshay Bhatia chatted with his mental coach, Dr Greg Cartin. The duo began working together during the 2020 pandemic hiatus; Bhatia credits their work as a large part of his rise in form after early struggles in his professional career.
“A big thing for me is creating stories in my head,” Bhatia said. “‘What could happen? What if I play bad?’ and he was like, ‘You’re going to create stories, and that’s fine. It’s OK if it happens. But realising that, and getting back to the reality of trying to hit this golf shot, is the biggest thing.’ And I really tried to own that. Sometimes you can get in your head, and I told my caddie, ‘I’m excited today; it’s going to be a fun, hard challenging round, and I’m up for it.’”
Bhatia carded a final-round 65 in Puerto Rico, including a mind-bending birdie from a fairway bunker on No 17, to finish solo second, two strokes behind Nicolas Echavarria. Bhatia accepted this membership at the Valspar Championship.
“Since I was a little kid, I’ve wanted to be on the PGA Tour, and dreamed about being the best player in the world,” Bhatia said at the Valspar, the site of his Tour debut as an amateur in 2019. “And now I have the opportunity to do it.”
Bhatia now turns his attention to the current year’s FedExCup points race. The first focal point: earning enough non-member FedExCup points to equal or surpass No 125 on the official FedExCup Playoffs and Eligibility Points List upon the conclusion of the 2023 Tour season, extending through the schedule’s fall portion. This would ensure exempt Tour status in 2024, not subject to periodic reshuffles.
By securing Special Temporary Membership, Bhatia also earns a spot in a conditional category on the 2023 Tour Priority Ranking. This category reshuffles a combination of Tour members including past champions (beyond their exemption) and veteran members (150 or more career cuts made). The next reshuffle will occur on the Monday after the Valero Texas Open, and Bhatia will move near the top of this category at that time.
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Bhatia was born in Northridge, California, and lives in Wake Forest, North Carolina. He shares a passion for golf with his elder sister, and his interest in the sport began while watching her practice.
Bhatia gained national attention in 2017 when, as a 15-year-old, he won the Boys Junior PGA Championship – and set several records in doing so at the Country Club of St. Albans.
He turned professional in September 2019 after competing in the 2019 Walker Cup, and made his professional debut at the Sanderson Farms Championship.
But even once Special Temporary Membership is solidified, there’s still work left to do. However, with his recent performances Bhatia is well on his way to breaking into the top level PGA circuit.