PHOENIX – One would expect any golfer who has won Pac-12 Golfer of the Year, First Team All-Pac-12 and an NCAA individual national championship to be on the back half of their college career and preparing to move on to professional golf.
For Stanford’s Rose Zhang, she’s an outlier among her peers. Last year, as a freshman, Zhang already conquered the conference’s highest achievements, as well as being named Pac-12 Freshman of the Year, WGCA Player of the Year and setting the NCAA single-season record for scoring average (69.68).
Now, in her sophomore season, Zhang continues her dominating start to her college and amateur career. As the Pac-12 season wraps up at the women’s conference championships this week at Phoenix’s Papago Golf Club, Zhang is looking to accomplish the one thing she could not in her first year.
Despite her accolades, Zhang did not win a team or individual Pac-12 Championship in her first year. Through the first two rounds of her second Pac-12 tournament, Zhang is on track to change that and sits in sole possession of first place with a score of 9-under par and a four-stroke lead.
“It’s important to stay steady. At this golf course it’s very difficult. I think for us it’s important to understand what the greens are doing,” Zhang said. “For me, I’m going to stick to my gameplan and do what I need to do to help the team.”
Her strong start at the Pac-12 Women’s Championship comes only two weeks after participating in the Augusta National Women’s Amateur tournament at Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia.
Entering the tournament, Zhang had held the title of the No. 1 amateur golfer in the world for 133 consecutive weeks. In her fourth appearance at the same course where the Masters takes place annually, the 19-year-old finished on top of the leaderboard with a score of 9-under par.
Zhang noted Tuesday how winning at Augusta has changed her mindset going forward for the rest of this season.
“I learned what it means to stay in the zone no matter what. With everything around me, I was able to keep steady and play my own game,” Zhang said. “It took all of me to understand what I am doing on the golf course, and that’s what I want to do going into (Wednesday) and other tournaments going forward.”
In the three rounds played at the Augusta National Women’s Amateur, Zhang broke the record for the lowest round in the tournament twice, with a 6-under in the first round and a 7-under in the second.
After playing at one of the most prestigious courses in the world, she brought back a lot of experience for her Stanford teammates to learn from.
“It’s really cool to have her as a teammate,” said Kelly Xu, who is tied for 20th in the Pac-12 Women’s Championship at 1-over par. “She’s a great person as well as a great player. I think she just kind of rubs off on us no matter what.”
Despite Zhang leading the field, Stanford has some work to do to win the team title. At the end of the second round, the Cardinal are currently in third place at 5-under par and sit three strokes behind first-place University of Arizona and USC.
“We have to limit mistakes that have cost us bogeys, doubles and a triple on the card. We also need to see some putts fall,” Stanford coach Anne Walker said. “I believe we have it in us, but it’s going to take a lot because Arizona and USC are putting themselves up.”
Heading into Wednesday’s final round, Zhang will look to capture her first individual Pac-12 championship title while Stanford looks to catch up to to the Wildcats and Trojans.