Rose Zhang jumps into pole position at Augusta National Women’s Amateur
Rose Zhang has just about done it all. Nine collegiate wins. The 2020 U.S. Women’s Amateur. NCAA individual and team titles. She’s bagged a T11 finish at a major championship. We could continue, but that might get boring.
For now, we’ve got the ANWA, which is the crown jewel of women’s amateur golf still missing from her resume. The Augusta National Women’s Amateur kicked off Wednesday at Champions Retreat in Evans, Ga., and you can go ahead and wage an educated guess at who’s atop the leaderboard.
Zhang began on the 10th hole and traipsed through her first nine in just 33. She then cruised around the front nine in the same score. Not a bogey on the card, a smooth 66, out ahead of everyone. “I can’t really expect anything more out of my game today,” she said afterward.
Zhang leads by one over Andrea Lignell, who is two clear of third place.
Newbies to the Rose Zhang Tour should know that she’s kind of been doing this all year long. Zhang entered the week having won five times during this collegiate season in just six tournaments. She’s lost to just 11 golfers. And all the while taking 21 credits in the classroom.
Is it a heater if the person on the heater doesn’t call it a heater? She says she’s been too busy with school that “these past couple weeks haven’t felt like hot stretches.”
But Zhang is admittedly nonchalant about basically everything. When asked on Wednesday for the toughest spot she found herself in on the course, she paused and said, “I can’t really recall,” which is the kind of golfing freedom we can all yearn for some day. (Eventually she bequeathed that hitting her approach on 8, albeit long and on the green, was indeed a spot of slight discomfort.)
Life is busy but life is clearly good for the 19-year-old from Irvine, Calif. She’s the rare breed of college golf superstar who already has an apparel sponsor (Adidas) and an equipment deal (Callaway). You’d think there might be some extra pressure on the No. 1 amateur in the world, who has never quite played her best at Augusta National, but she just laughs her way through most questions from the press. Wednesday afternoon saw her admitting it’s good her caddie-father has finally mellowed out alongside her. It makes for a better dynamic. Assuming she’ll take her hot streak and first-round lead into contention, the question had to be asked: will Dad be caddying all weekend, even at Augusta National?
“Potentially… we’ll see. We might go for an Augusta caddie,” she said with a knowing smile. “Should I make the cut.”