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Written by: Anjali Mishra
Akshay, a young Indian golfer, won the Bahamas Great Exuma Classic at Sandals Emerald Bay on the Korn Ferry Tour. Since the Tour's inception in 1990, he has become the third-youngest player to win a Korn Ferry Tour event which is an immensely proud moment for India.
Akshay Bhatia, winner of Korn Ferry Tour
A stunning bogey-free seven-under 65 in the final round gave Bhatia a two-stroke victory at Sandals Emerald Bay on Wednesday and joined Australia’s former world no 1 Jason Day and Korean star Sungjae Im as the only teenagers to win on the development circuit, which is the pathway to the PGA TOUR.
Bhatia's 14-under 274 was the tournament's second-lowest 72-hole score in its five-year history.
Paul Haley II finished second at -12, his third runner-up finish and sixth top-10 finish in 35 Korn Ferry Tour appearances.
“I’ve just climbed the mountain slowly and slowly and slowly,” Bhatia said.
“I’m just excited to play next week. I have never had a schedule. To be able to have a schedule and look forward to playing certain events… there’s all those things I get to look forward to this year.
“I would like to win three and get promoted to the PGA TOUR, so I guess that’s my goal.” After making birdie on 17, Bhatia, who is an Indian-American, closed out his win in style. With 156 yards to the pin on the par 5 18th hole, he wedged his approach to the inside of a foot to secure the first victory of his career and cement his status as one of the game’s rising stars.
Akshay Bhatia in the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines
Previously, Bhatia’s struggles have been well documented in recent seasons. Upon joining the play-for-pay ranks, Bhatia missed his first seven cuts, six on the PGA Tour and another at the Saudi International, and failed to find his footing on anything other than the mini-tours. He tied for ninth at the 2020 Safeway Open, which he parlayed into enough non-member points (108) for a ticket to Korn Ferry Tour Finals (and by extension his KFT card), but by the time he qualified for last summer’s U.S. Open, he was mentally drained.
Bhatia, a native of California who now resides in Wake Forest, North Carolina, had one of three bogey-free rounds in the final round, as well as one of three rounds of 65 or higher all week.
Bhatia finished the event at 14-under par after a thrilling back nine that included birdies on three of the final four holes (No.s 15, 17, and 18).
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