Akshay Bhatia, a 21-year-old who turned pro at 17 and plays on the Korn Ferry Tour, closed with a 65 to finish alone in second in the Puerto Rico Open and earned special temporary membership on the PGA Tour, giving him unlimited sponsor exemptions for the rest of the season.
“I can’t believe I’m crying,” Bhatia had said on Sunday as quoted by the PGA tour website. “It means a lot. Worked really hard; it’s been a crazy journey, for sure. Last year was really disappointing; I got hurt and didn’t get my card through the Korn Ferry Tour. It’s crazy. I have so many people to thank … it’s a crazy day. Didn’t even know I shot 7 under. Chipped in three times on the same hole through this week.
“This is a great story, and I want to write a book about my life and my journey. It’s definitely going to be a really good chapter, for sure,” he added.
Welcome to the PGA TOUR, @AkshayBhatia_1 👏
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) March 5, 2023
Talking about achieving the special temporary membership, he said, “It’s going to be a lot of emotion. I know my dad’s going to really cry, which I’ve only seen him do one time. My goal this whole year was to finish No. 1 on the Korn Ferry Tour (standings), play that way, get my card that way. But you know, just a different path. I’ve been in this position before, and it really makes me happy that I’ve handled it so much better and learned from all the experiences I’ve had. I mean, how can you not be happy being on the PGA TOUR?”
Meanwhile, Colombian rookie Nico Echavarria seized control with two straight birdies on the back nine and closed with a 4-under 68 for a two-shot victory in the Puerto Rico Open for his first PGA Tour title.
Echavarria was soaked on a sunny day at Grand Reserve, with friends and family dousing him with champagne after he tapped in for par. He tied the tournament record at 21-under 267.
“I’m happy with life right now,” Echavarria said. “After missing four cuts in a row, only making two cuts, you just doubt yourself. I’m very grateful I kept pushing and got it done.”
Carson Young, who led through 36 holes, had a 71 and finished third tied with Nate Lashley (69).