By Gabrielle Scheder-Bieschin | Oct. 11, 2018, 10:40 p.m. (ET)
Akshay Bhatia plays out of the bunker on Oct. 11, 2018 in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

 

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina -- Akshay Bhatia earned Team USA’s third silver medal of the Summer Youth Olympic Games Buenos Aires 2018, earning the highest podium spot for a U.S. golfer since the sport was reintroduced to the Olympic program in 2014.

The men’s individual event took place over three rounds, so three days of elite golf competition built up to Thursday’s medal stand. Bhatia finished his first round on Tuesday tied for first. His second round on Wednesday saw him fall one stroke behind, giving him a second-place ranking going into today’s final round. His final round stayed consistent, landing him the silver medal just two strokes out of first place. Over the three days, he carded a 2-under par (69-69-70—208)

What did not stay consistent, however, was the weather. After two days of beautiful weather at the course, today’s event was a bit different; by the last putt, jackets were zipped and umbrellas were out as rain came down.

“I’m pretty cold actually,” Bhatia laughed, when asked how he was feeling after his podium finish. “But it was really cool. To win a medal is really prestigious for me and my family, so I’m really grateful to come in second.”

His family was able to see his success in person, cheering him on throughout the competition. To have them by his side in Argentina was an honor, he said. “You don’t get to be in a situation like this very often, so I was definitely excited just to stand on that podium and have my dad by my side.”

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Bhatia adds his name to a short list of modern golfers who have represented Team USA. After all, though the sport was competed at the 1900 and 1904 Olympic Games, golf was not added to the program again until the 2014 Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing, China. American Matt Kuchar earned bronze at the Rio Olympic Games two years later, but Thursday, Bhatia went one step further and added his own name atop the short list of medalists.

“Any time you get to represent your country is special, and not something I’ll take for granted ever,” he said about the honor. “To come out as a medalist is awesome.”

The golf competition at these Games does not end there. He’ll have another chance at a medal starting Saturday, when Bhatia will team up with Team USA’s Lucy Li for the team event. Li also competed individually, placing seventh after a few tough rounds. The team event will be a fresh start for them both.

“If I can play the way I usually play, it should be really good. I am really excited for the team event and to play with Akshay and have fun out there.” Li explained. “We played together on the Junior Ryder Cup, so we were really good friends before this. It has been really fun to spend the last few days with him again.”

On and off the field, the two emphasized that word - fun. Between meeting other athletes, testing themselves against the best in their field and experiencing new cultures, the Youth Olympic Games have been a positive experience for them both. To add a medal, Bhatia says, is just another great part of this unique experience.