As high-school golfers around the world signed their national letters of intent Wednesday to signal the start of the week-long early signing period for college golf, Oliver Betschart stood behind a microphone and fielded questions from reporters in Southampton, Bermuda, a day before he’d be signing an official scorecard in his PGA Tour debut.
The 15-year-old Betshcart, a native of Bermuda, is still a couple years away from playing college golf – should he choose to go that route – but that didn’t stop him from qualifying for this week’s Butterfield Bermuda Championship, where he’ll become the youngest player to compete on Tour since Tianlang Guan at the 2014 Sony Open.
Coincidentally, Betschart will be paired Thursday and Friday with another qualifier, Andy Zhang, who back in 2012 played the U.S. Open at age 14. Betschart is the fifth-youngest to play a Tour event this century, behind Zhang, Guan, Lorens Chan and Michelle Wie, who was 14 years, 3 months and 7 days old when she competed in the 2004 Sony Open.
Betschart is six months younger than Kenny Leseur, who was also 15 when he played Bermuda in 2019.
“I’m not trying to get too hung up on that,” Betschart said Wednesday. “… Not feeling entitled or anything. Just staying very calm and enjoying hanging out with friends still. Nothing’s going to change.”
Betschart earned his inaugural Tour start about three weeks ago when he won the Port Royal Golf Club Championship and punched one of three available spots in the 144-player field on the same course – a layout he’s played a thousand times, estimates Betschart, who says his first hole-in-one came on Port Royal’s third hole when he was 7 years old.
Betshart has been involved with this event for several years, serving as a standard bearer in 2019, range volunteer in 2020, caddie in 2021, tournament staff in 2022 and now a player.
“I know a bit more strategy and I mean, me and my coach, David Ogrin, have gone over this as well,” Betschart said. “I definitely have a bit of an advantage now having played the course a bunch of times, and I just play my game, play how I’ve been doing now for the last few years.”
Betschart expects to concede up to 70 yards off the tee to his pro competitors, hoping that his course knowledge and putter will help him make up the difference in distance – and age.
He also will abide by a message on the bracelet that his sister made for him before the qualifier: The next shot.
“It’s just kind of a reminder to me, don’t focus on anything else except the shot that I have in the present moment,” Betschart explained.
As for goals this week? Well, the next shot.
“I’m trying not to look too far ahead into the future,” Betschart said. “It’s just kind of focusing on that first tee shot on Thursday. Just kind of staying focused and staying in the moment.”