Akshay Bhatia has been very successful in junior and amateur golf.
Now comes the next step.
Bhatia has accepted a sponsor invitation to play in the Safeway Open, a PGA Tour event set Sept. 23-29 at Silverado Resort and Spa in Napa, the tournament announced.
It will be Bhatia’s first event as a professional. The 17-year-old is No. 5 in this week’s Men’s World Amateur Golf Ranking and last month was named to the 2019 U.S. team, which will face a team comprised of players from Great Britain and Ireland in the Walker Cup at Royal Liverpool, Hoylake, England, Sept. 7-8.
Bhatia, a resident of Wake Forest, North Carolina, is the youngest player ever to be named to the U.S. Walker Cup team. The Walker Cup is a biennial amateur team competition. The U.S. leads the series, 36-9-1.
Bhatia will join a field of 144 players for the Safeway Open, which offers a $6.6 million purse and is the third event of the PGA Tour’s 2019-2020 schedule. The event will be played on the Silverado North Course, a par-72, 7,166-yard layout. The winner will receive $1.188 million.
“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 press release. “I am very thankful that Safeway and the tournament committee have given me this exciting opportunity.”
The Safeway Open, presented by Chevron and televised by Golf Channel, will again include World Golf Hall of Fame member and 44-time PGA Tour winner Phil Mickelson.
Tony Romo, the former Dallas Cowboys quarterback and current lead analyst for CBS Sports’ NFL coverage, will play in the Safeway Open on a sponsor invitation, it was announced last month.
Romo, a four-time Pro Bowl selection who played 14 seasons with the Cowboys, is an amateur golfer and won the American Century Championship, a celebrity tournament, for the second straight year in July. Romo fired a 2-over-par 74 in the closing round at Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course at Stateline, Nevada, and finished with 71 points in the Modified Stableford scoring format.
Romo will be making his fourth appearance in a PGA Tour event when he plays in the Safeway Open.
Kevin Tway won last year’s tournament in a playoff. Tway beat Ryan Moore on the par-4, 10th hole – the third hole of the playoff – with a birdie putt from 10 feet.
It was Tway’s first PGA Tour win. He went birdie, birdie, birdie in the playoff. He is the son of Bob Tway, an eight-time winner on Tour. Bob Tway won the PGA Championship in 1986.
Tway made a late charge, making birdies on his final five holes, including the playoff holes. He and his dad became the 10th father-son duo to win on the PGA Tour.
The tournament attendance for the week last year was 82,500, event officials said. Saturday’s third-round attendance was announced at 25,000. Sunday’s final-round attendance was 20,000.
One of top amateur players in world
Bhatia, who turns 18 on Jan. 2, 2020, is one of the top amateur players in the world. He finished tied for 10th at the recent European Amateur Championship and in February won the Jones Cup Invitational.
Bhatia has wins in five junior events in the past year. He was ninth at the U.S. Junior Amateur Championship.
He played on a sponsor exemption in the Valspar Championship in March. He did not make the cut in his PGA Tour debut after shooting 74-72 – 146 at Innisbrook Resort’s Copperhead Course in Palm Harbor, Florida.
He Monday qualified for the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail Championship, a Korn Ferry Tour event, in April. He tied for 42nd after rounds of 73, 70, 74 and 70 for a 287 total at The Senator Course in Prattville, Alabama.
Bhatia earned two silver medals – one for the boys individual and the other for mixed team, where he was teamed with Lucy Li of Redwood Shores (San Mateo County) – at the Summer Youth Olympic Games last year in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
He also represented the United States at the Junior Presidents Cup in 2017 and the Junior Ryder Cup in 2018.
Last year, he finished as the runner-up at the U.S. Junior Amateur at Baltusrol Golf Club in Springfield, New Jersey and reached match play at the U.S. Amateur at Pebble Beach.
He won the Dustin Johnson World Junior Golf Championship this year at TPC Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
Bhatia had wins last year at the Boys Junior PGA and the Polo Golf Junior Classic.
He was the American Junior Golf Association Rolex Junior Player of the Year in 2018, when he finished No. 1 in the Rolex AJGA Rankings. He is a three-time Rolex Junior All-American.
“I love playing golf and I love competing,” Bhatia, a lefthander, said on www.pgatour.com.
Fourth year of Safeway Open
The Safeway Open is now in its fourth year. Safeway is the title sponsor. The five-year agreement runs through 2020 with the PGA Tour event remaining at Silverado for the duration.
For the 2019-2020 season, the Safeway Open will follow A Military Tribute at The Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia (Sept. 9-15) and the Sanderson Farms Championship in Jackson, Mississippi (Sept. 16-22).
The 2019-20 schedule will have 49 FedExCup tournaments, an increase of three events over the current season. Eleven of the regular season events will be played in the opening portion of the schedule, between September-November, the PGA Tour announced. The season concludes with three FedExCup Playoffs events.
The PGA Tour’s wraparound schedule bridges two years.
“… We are thrilled to expand the number of events to 49 while maintaining a great flow from start-to-finish, allowing our fans to better engage and follow the Tour throughout the season,” PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan said in a press release.
“As for the early-season portion of the schedule, our players grasp the importance of a strong start in the Race for the FedExCup and this has translated into growth and momentum for the events played in the fall.”
Ticket, tournament information
Daily tickets to the Safeway Open are on sale for $35. It includes admission to the Safeway Open Concert Series, as well as the Safeway Food and Wine Pavilion and other on-site food, wine, beer and spirits venues.
To purchase tickets, or for more information, visit safewayopen.com.