Akshay Bhatia, 17, will make professional debut at the 2019 Safeway Open; Tony Romo also granted sponsor's exemption
Akshay Bhatia was named to the Walker Cup team on Wednesday. Less than 24 hours later, the highly touted high schooler confirmed it will be his last appearance as an amateur.
Bhatia announced on Thursday that he will turn pro after the United States' biennial match against Great Britain & Ireland, with the PGA Tour's Safeway Open granting him a sponsor’s exemption.
The announcement is not a surprise. The Wake Forest, N.C., resident announced in May that he had signed with Lagardere Sports for management and marketing representation, and circled the fall in multiple interviews as a launch for his pro career.
Bhatia, fourth in the World Amateur rankings, has won five junior and amateur events in the past year, highlighted by a victory at the Jones Cup Invitational. He made his first start in a PGA Tour event earlier this season at the Valspar Championship and was able to Monday qualify, and make the cut, at the Korn Ferry Tour’s Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail Championship.
Bhatia, 17, who will be the first golfer still in high school to compete for the U.S. in Walker Cup history, also represented America at the 2017 Junior Presidents Cup and 2018 Junior Ryder Cup.
“I’m very excited to make the Safeway Open my first event as a professional on the PGA Tour. This is what I have been working toward for a long time,” Bhatia said in a statement. “I am very thankful that Safeway and the tournament committee have given me this exciting opportunity.”
In conjunction with Bhatia's announcement, the Safeway Open also announced former NFL quarterback Tony Romo has been granted a sponsor's exemption.
This year's Walker Cup begins Sept. 7 at Royal Liverpool in Wirral, England, with the Safeway Open beginning Sept. 25 at Silverado Resort in Napa, Calif.