PAST CHAMPIONS: WHERE ARE THEY NOW?
In just four years, the Dustin Johnson World Junior Golf Championship has emerged as one of the nation’s premier tournaments, something the event’s impressive list of champions makes abundantly clear.
With entries into the 2020 DJ World Junior having just opened, we thought it would be a good time for a “Where Are They Now” look at the tournament’s past winners, beginning with the boys.
— History will show that 2019 champion Akshay Bhatia claimed his final amateur title at the DJ World Junior. Bhatia turned pro this fall and signed an endorsement deal with Callaway. The N.C. native has yet to make a cut in three PGA Tour starts, but he is just 17 years old. Bhatia will be playing in the second stage of Korn Ferry Tour qualifying next month, where he hopes to take the next big step in his quest to earn a PGA Tour card.
— Michael Brennan, the 2018 winner and Wake Forest commitment, has kept a lower profile, mostly eschewing the junior golf circuit to compete in amateur events, but his resume is an impressive one. The Leesburg, Va., native just became the first person to win the Middle Atlantic Amateur Championship three times when he triumphed at Westwood Country Club on Oct. 7. Brennan, who used a 72nd hole eagle to best Bhatia at the DJ, is also the Virginia match play champion.
— Trent Phillips arrived at the 2017 DJ World Junior as one of the nation’s most highly regarded juniors and he didn’t disappoint. The Inman, S.C., native has more than lived up to the lofty expectations that followed him to the University of Georgia as well. Entering his junior season, Phillips, who had three top 10s last year, is on the Preseason Haskins Award Watch List, which is given annually to the nation’s most outstanding collegiate golfer.
— Our inaugural champion, Blake Taylor, enters his senior season at East Carolina as a two-time member of the America Athletic Conference All-Conference team. Taylor has played in every tournament since his arrival at East Carolina and was the team’s best finisher in five of 11 events during the 2018-19 season. Oh, yeah, he also Monday qualified in his first attempt at the 2018 A Military Tribute at the Greenbrier, a PGA Tour event.
— On the girls side, 14-year-old phenom Alexa Pano is the two-time defending champion and she has enjoyed an unforgettable 2019 after leaving TPC Myrtle Beach. The Floridian played in the first annual Augusta National Women’s Amateur and she teed it up at the U.S. Women’s Open over the summer.
— Skylar Thompson, who emerged victorious in 2017, played a year at the University of South Carolina before transferring to Ohio State, where she started in both events this fall.
— Delaney Shah rallied from a 9-stroke deficit in the final round to capture the first DJ World Junior girls title. Now in her senior year at Louisville, Shah has been a contributor all four years and is a three-time member of the ACC All-Academic team.