Rose Zhang leaves dominant amateur career to turn pro
By DOUG FERGUSON
Rose Zhang dominated amateur golf like no other female in the modern game. Now the Stanford star is ready to take on the best.
Zhang announced Friday she is turning pro, ending an amateur career in which the 20-year-old sophomore set the Stanford record with 12 wins - one more than Tiger Woods - in only 20 tournaments.
She won the Augusta National Women's Amateur, followed that with her second straight NCAA titles and was No. 1 in the amateur world ranking for 141 weeks, another record.
“Wow ... it's finally happening," Zhang announced on Instagram. “The endless love, support and inspiration from so many people brought me to this point of my golf career.”
She will have no shortage of opportunities - the remaining four majors, including the U.S. Women's Open and the Women's British Open - have given her special exemptions.
The Women's Open is at Pebble Beach, the most iconic of U.S. Open venues, for the first time. While no longer an amateur, Zhang is the first player to get a special invitation to the U.S. Women’s Open without having LPGA status since Michelle Wie West.
“This is a big moment for our sport, and I’m very appreciative of the USGA for the opportunity to be part of it,” Zhang said.
Even rarer is getting an invitation to the Women's British.
“Rose Zhang is an incredibly talented golfer who has already written her name into the history books as an amateur golfer,” said Martin Slumbers, the CEO of the R&A. “It is very rare that we grant a special exemption for the AIG Women’s Open but we believe that Rose’s exceptional achievements to date warrant her inclusion in the field at Walton Heath.”
Zhang will make her debut next week in the Mizuho Americas Open, a new tournament hosted by Michelle Wie West at Liberty National in New Jersey.
“Rose is one of the greatest amateur golfers in the history of the sport – male or female – and we are thrilled to welcome her into our field," said Jerry Rizzieri, the president and CEO of Mizuho Securities USA.
It was an example of the hype that Zhang brings with her to the professional game. But then, she has been facing expectations ever since she won the U.S. Women's Amateur and the U.S. Girls Junior. She was the eighth player to win both, but the first to win the Women's Amateur (at age 17) before the Junior.
Along with the two NCAA titles - Stanford won the team title last year - the final piece of an incomparable career was the Augusta National Women's Amateur, already among the elite amateur events because it is held at the home of the Masters.
She also will player the Kroger Queen City Championship in Cincinnati, an event run by Excel Sports, the management agency with whom she signed.
Zhang already has NIL deals at Stanford, and given her mixture of prodigious talent and remarkable grace and humility, likely will be among the highest-paid in women's golf through corporate endorsements. Such announcements are expected next week.
Zhang grew up in Irvine, California, and spent two years at Stanford. Her 12 career titles - the last won was the NCAA - broke the record previously held by Tiger Woods, Patrick Rodgers and Maverick McNealy. She tied the Pac-12 record set by Lorena Ochoa at Arizona.
Zhang first reached No. 1 in the women's amateur ranking in September 2020. She broke Lydia Ko's record of 130 consecutive weeks at No. 1, and overall record (141 weeks) that was set by Leona Maguire.
Along with the two Opens, the KPMG Women's PGA at Baltusrol and the Amundi Evian Championship in France, Zhang has accepted invitations to play the Dana Open near Toledo, Ohio, and the Canadian Women's Open. She could qualify for other LPGA events by finishing in the top 10.
While turning pro, Zhang said she would finish her degree at Stanford.
AP golf: https://apnews.com/hub/golf and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports
Updated May 26, 2023