Something big happened in golf this year
A 23-year-old Swedish rookie, Ludvig Åberg, who had never played in a major was picked for the Ryder Cup along with a lesser-known 22-year-old Danish twin, Nicolai Højgaard. Two 25-year-olds and 21-year-old Ruoning Yin won four of the five women’s majors, and one of the biggest stories in sports became 20-year-old Stanford phenom Rose Zhang going from historic amateur to immediate LPGA Tour winner. An amateur, Sam Bennett, had his name at the top of the Masters leaderboard through two days in Augusta. Viktor Hovland went on a historic August heater to make his claim as the best golfer in the world — before his 26th birthday. Oh, and South Korean star Tom Kim reached No. 11 worldwide by the time he was 21. Youth has always been at the core of golf, a sport that has always produced prodigies and superstars in the spotlight since childhood. So maybe this isn’t new. But because this is such an exciting time for youth in golf, it’s a good chance to look at the next wave of golfers that you’ll know very soon: The 25 best golfers under 25. Some you already know, because their accomplishments have demanded your attention, and some are working under the radar but could very well be next. Without further ado, meet your next generation.
(NOTE: The list is ordered alphabetically by last name)
Ludvig Åberg (24, Sweden)
He is tall. He is strong. He can drive the ball farther and more accurately than all but one or two players in the world. And Ludvig Åberg is no longer coming. He is here. After winning nearly every national collegiate award at Texas Tech and breaking some of Rickie Fowler’s Big 12 records, Åberg immediately turned pro and hung in the top 40 at almost every event. Then he won the European Masters and earned himself a Ryder Cup spot at 23. He and partner Viktor Hovland absolutely dominated in foursomes winning two matches — including the largest blowout in Ryder Cup history over Scottie Scheffler and Brooks Koepka — on the way to the European victory. And then he got rolling on the PGA Tour fall slate, going T2, T13 and T10 before winning the RSM Classic on Sunday to qualify for the Masters and two signature events. The only question left is if he can compete for majors in 2024.
Akshay Bhatia (21, USA)
Bhatia decided to turn pro at 17 instead of going to college. While many other rising stars his age (and on this list) were winning college accolades and learning how to be the top dogs, Bhatia was learning how to be a pro. And that means learning how to deal with the good and the bad. He didn’t make a single cut in the 2020 season, and 2021 wasn’t much better, so he went down to the Korn Ferry Tour and figured it out. And through all that, he’s still only 21. In 2023, he earned top 10s at smaller events like the Puerto Rico Open, the Mexico Open and Barbasol before winning the alternate field Barracuda Championship. Now, he’s playing quite well in the PGA Tour fall events, indicating he might be ready to take a step. The golf world got to know Sam Bennett during the 2023 Masters. Sam Bennett (23, USA) The coolest thing about Sam Bennett is that nobody ever sees him coming. He wasn’t the highly-touted young star when he won the 2022 U.S. Amateur. He wasn’t even the big amateur name at the 2023 Masters, but he still found himself in the final groups on the weekend while tying the 36-hole amateur record…