Rose Zhang’s game is the hottest of any amateur golfer on the planet. The 18-year-old has made the jump from junior golf to collegiate golf seamlessly — winning her first four events as a freshman at Stanford — as she’s climbed to No. 1 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking. Now, she’s just looking to keep the momentum rolling.
With both a U.S. Girl’s Junior Amateur trophy and U.S. Women’s Amateur trophy already under her belt, Zhang has amassed some serious hardware. But now she’s got her sights set on the one that got away — the Augusta National Women’s Amateur.
In her first start last spring, a disastrous final-round triple-bogey at Amen Corner dashed her chances. Now a year older (and wiser), Zhang returns to Augusta National with hopes of nabbing the biggest title of her young career.
Zephyr Melton: What sticks out most to you about that final round last year at Augusta?
Rose Zhang: That experience really gave me a lot of insight on the kind of player I am and the kind of player that I should aspire to be. It was my first time playing on such a huge stage in contention — and it was at Augusta National! — so that gave me a memory that I’ll always remember. Overall, I have some great memories of that day. There’s no, ‘Oh I’m disappointed in this, or how I finished.’ It’s a great memory.
ZM: Did you ever dream as a kid that you’d be coming down the back nine at Augusta National in contention of a huge tournament?
RZ: Never! I had no idea; never had those expectations. All I wanted to do last year was to make the cut so I could play at Augusta National. (Ed. note: Only the final round of the ANWA is contested at Augusta National. The first two rounds are played at nearby Champions Retreat.) It was just a cherry on top being able to be in that position and be in contention. It was really, really special.
ZM: What is the most difficult thing about Augusta National?
RZ: The most difficult thing about it is the course management. You have to be on the correct tier of the greens. Even if you hit an amazing shot, there’s always a chance of your ball falling into the creek or something. Being able to understand those slopes and execute your shots is so important. And also the putting is quite difficult. You really have to dial in all your skills around the greens.
ZM: What’s some advice you would give to someone going out for the first time to play Augusta National?
RZ: Keep the ball under the hole. You definitely do not want to be above it. And don’t be afraid to play it safe.
ZM: How do you even begin to prep for a course like that?
RZ: It’s all about getting your fundamentals sharp. Chipping and putting and all that is so important. It’s a course that you can’t really prepare for unless you’re on it, I’d say. No matter how much you prepare for it, you’ve still got to go out there and hit the shots.
ZM: What’s the biggest difference between Rose Zhang now, and Rose Zhang one year ago?
RZ: I have a lot more understanding and insight into the social media aspect of being an elite golfer. Even before I came on at ANWA, I was pretty aware of the attention I was getting, but I was pretty new to everything. Now, I’m more use to it, and I think I’ve adjusted well to it.
ZM: What did you learn about yourself after how you played— and finished — last year? (Ed. Note: Zhang triple-bogeyed the par-5 13th hole during her final-round 75 in 2021. She finished the event T3 — one stroke out of a playoff.)
RZ: I just learned how to control myself on the golf course. On 13, when I hit the shot in the water, I was so in the moment, but I lost that control in me and I just wanted to go for it — and that didn’t go well. *laughs* Being able to step back a little bit on and reflect on that mistake was a very valuable lesson. I learned that your composure after something bad happens is important. Maintaining your composure is the main thing for playing well in general.
ZM: I know you bounced back after that triple on 13 with a birdie on 14. How were you able to calm your mind and make a huge bounce-back birdie?
RZ: I just took a moment to breathe. I took a moment to just focus on the next shot and tell myself to get it in the fairway and then go from there. After the disaster on 13, I stepped to 14 tee and just said, ‘Ok. New hole. Hit the ball, and we’ll go from there.’ I didn’t really think of bouncing back, it just so happened that I did.
ZM: Last question. How much would it mean to get a win at Augusta National?
RZ: I mean, it would be absolutely amazing! This is probably the No. 1-ranked amateur event for the women’s game, along with the U.S. Am. But this event is just so special with the venue. Just playing in [the ANWA] is part of history. To have your name on the trophy would just be even more amazing.