World No. 1-ranked amateur shares 3 secrets to becoming an elite player

rose zhang swings

Rose Zhang is just 17, but she has serious game.

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HOUSTON — She might be just 17 years old, but Rose Zhang has some serious game. Good news for us: She’s willing to share it with others.

The Stanford commit has long been considered one of the best prospects in golf, and she cemented that status with her win earlier this year at the U.S. Women’s Amateur. Over a grueling stretch of 11 rounds over seven days at Woodmont Country Club, Zhang successfully dethroned defending champion Gabriela Ruffels to win the Robert Cox Cup — nursing a bum wrist, no less. The win vaulted her up the World Amateur Golf Ranking as she eventually took over the top spot after a T11 finish at the ANA Inspiration in September.

Now she is preparing for the U.S. Women’s Open at Champions Golf Club — her first major as the top dog in the amateur game. And while Zhang’s ascent to the top has been swift, she’s been grinding for years to make golf look this easy. After her Monday practice session, she shared a few keys to the success she’s found in her young career.

1. Be ready to make sacrifices

Zhang was not shy about discussing the sacrifices that come with becoming an elite golfer. Juggling the grind of junior golf with academic responsibilities and being a normal social teenager is not an easy thing to navigate.

“You have to manage your time wisely, and keep a close social circle,” Zhang said. “And as far as balance goes, it requires a lot of hard work in school and on the golf course.”

2. Use your free time wisely

The free time might be sparse, but when it comes up, you have to use it wisely. If you don’t, you’re at risk of burning yourself out.

“When you have free time, it’s resting time and hanging out with friends,” she said. “I think I’ve managed to balance those elements out pretty well, but it is quite difficult.”

3. Love the grind

Getting to the top of the game is not an easy path to traverse, so it requires a certain mindset to keep you sane. Not all of the moments will be pleasant, but if you truly love what you do, all of the time and effort will be worth it.

“The most important thing is just to love the game no matter what,” Zhang said. “You really have to have a passion for it. That’s how you overcome any tough obstacles. Just play the game for yourself. If you love the game, everything will fall into place.”

Golf.com Editor

Zephyr Melton is an assistant editor for GOLF.com where he spends his days blogging, producing and editing. Prior to joining the team at GOLF.com, he attended the University of Texas followed by stops with Team USA, the Green Bay Packers and the PGA Tour. He assists on all things instruction and covers amateur and women’s golf.