Akshay was a 2016 AJGA All-American and Carolina Golf Association All-American. More recently, he was the 2017 Junior PGA Champion, 2017 Joe Chavez Invitational Champion and a member of the 2017 U.S. Junior Presidents Cup championship team. Excelling on and off the green, Bhatia is also a McConnell Scholarship Recipient.
Chile’s Joaquin Niemann shot a third-round 67 to finish -12 and claim victory at the 2017 Junior Invitational. He shot a 67 on Thursday, finishing round one in the lead, but had fallen one stroke behind by the end of play on Friday. Consistent play on Saturday, including dependable drives and a sure putter lifted Niemann to 12 under on hole 13, which proved to be the winning score.
"I just enjoyed this last day very much. This is the best tournament I can ask to win, and I won it."
Austin Eckroat started the 2016 tournament with a red-hot 65 and entered the final day of competition with a five-stroke lead. He began his final round with a double on the first, but followed that with an immediate birdie and then dropped an 18-foot birdie putt on the final hole to win by one stroke, after an amazing 2-iron approach. Eckroat is the second Oklahoma State Cowboy to win the Junior Invitational.
"I knew it was good when I heard the claps. It was the most clutch shot I ever hit."
–Austin Eckroat, on his approach shot to 18
Swedish golfer Marcus Kinhult became the first international player to win the Junior Invitational. And he performed this feat in less than ideal weather conditions and with a brand new putter. Kinhult started the final day of competition two shots back but caught the leader after only two holes.
"This is the biggest win in my entire junior career."
After winning the 2013 U.S. Junior Amateur and being named the Rolex Player of the Year by the AJGA, Scottie Scheffler continued his amazing run with a win at the 2014 Junior Invitational. In his last round, he had three consecutive birdies on holes 6-8 and held a one-shot lead at the turn. Scheffler parred hole 18 to secure his victory with a 1-under 71 on the day.
"It's a fun place. This one is probably the best (tournament) I've been to."
Seven players entered the final round tied for the lead. At the end of a soggy final round, Carson Young stood as champion. He dropped long birdie putts at holes 16 and 18 for a final round 70 and a 4-under total for the tournament (7 strokes ahead of future Ryder Cupper Matthew Fitzpatrick). Before winning the Junior Invitational, Young also won the Carolinas Amateur, the Bobby Champion Junior, Carolinas Junior Match Play and The Blade Junior Classic.
"Junior-wise, the (Junior Invitational) is definitely #1. These juniors are so good."
Entering the final round of competition, Zachary Olsen held a three-shot lead and didn't let up. In fact, he birdied his first hole on Saturday. Olsen opened with consecutive rounds of 68 and shot a 1-over-par round of 73 to finish ahead by three strokes.
"It's validation for how much hard work I've put in."
The very first Junior Invitational introduced fireworks from the beginning. Nicholas Reach tied the Sage Valley Golf Club course record with a 10-under 62 on the event's first day, then followed with a 66 and a final round 68. He won the event by an amazing eight strokes at 20-under-par (a full 9 strokes ahead of future PGA Tour champion Emiliano Grillo). The tournament's scoring was so low, in fact, the club decided to redesign multiple holes. The juniors are that good.
"I can't put into words how great this event is. Not many people know about Sage Valley, but the shape it is in is just as good as Augusta (National)."