Akshay Bhatia wins 2018 Junior Invitational at Sage Valley

GLT Content Writer & Developer Joe Culverhouse
  • Author: Joseph Culverhouse
  • GLT Content Writer & Developer
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2018 Junior Invitational

Akshay Bhatia won the 2018 Junior Invitational at Sage Valley Golf Club with a score of -2, 214, narrowly defeating Frankie Capan (-1, 215) and a three-way tie for third between Trent Phillips, Ricky Castillo and Robin Williams (+2, 218.) Bhatia narrowly survived with the win following a penalty for using a range finder in competition, as well as giving up a four-stroke lead before again pulling away for the win on Saturday.

Since 2011, the Junior Invitational at Sage Valley Golf Club has been recognized as one of the most competitive junior golf events in the world. The game’s top 54 junior players are invited to participate in a professionally styled event where they have the opportunity to meet sponsors and NCAA coaches while playing one of the country’s most exciting courses. The generous support of tournament sponsors allows players to attend at no personal cost for travel or accommodations, and has raised nearly $1.5 million for the Aiken and Augusta chapters of the First Tee.

In 2017, Chile’s Joaquin Niemann won the 2017 Junior Invitational. It was Niemann’s third appearance at the event. The win followed a banner 2016 season that saw the Chilean record 6 wins, including the IMG Junior World Championship and the Toyota Junior World Cup. Niemann was ranked No. 1 on the World Amateur Golf Ranking and played in the 2017 Masters thanks to winning the 2017 LAAC. While the 2018 Junior Invitational was taking place, Niemann was playing in his first PGA Tour event as a professional, finishing sixth in the Valero Texas Open.


Akshay Bhatia wins Junior Invitational
Akshay Bhatia wins the 2018 Junior Inviational Golf Jacket.

So what does this mean for the 2018 entrants? Are they destined for stardom and greatness? If Niemann’s trajectory is the model, it would appear so; however, at GLT Golf, we know it takes more than just great golfing skills to make it to the Masters and beyond. While there is little doubt the golfers invited to compete in the Junior Invitational are capable of further developing the elite level of golf skills required to play on Tour, whether or not the golfers can access these skills when faced with the degrees of adversity brought about by situations like trying to make the lineup of a top-ranked college team or web.com qualification.

GLT’s Iain Highfield was on hand at the Junior Invitational at Sage Valley Golf Club watching top-ranked junior golfer Robin Williams. But Iain wasn’t watching Robin’s swing or even paying attention to his score, he was instead assessing Robin’s ability to adapt to the demands of playing in an event perceived as the Masters of junior golf and his ability to deal with the inevitable adversity events of such prestige often present. While a 300-yard drive and a low spinning wedge shot are probably needed to play on the tour, psychological characteristics of excellence such as the ability to deal with adversity are a prerequisite.

“Robin played a really strong game mentally this weekend,” Highfield stated when asked about Robin’s effort. “In a round where he wasn’t hitting the ball squarely and could have easily shot an 80 or higher, he composed himself and shot a 75, so while he probably was playing his C or D game, he still shot his B game. That’s the type of psychological toughness elite players have to possess, it’s what really sets them apart from good golfers.”

Joaquin Niemann 2017