Rose Zhang. Justin Tafoya
Rose Zhang, one of the most decorated amateur and college golfers of all time, has announced on Instagram that she foregoing her final two years at Stanford to turn professional.
The reveal came three days after the 20-year-old sophomore from Irvine, California, won her second straight NCAA individual title, becoming the first woman to win the honour more than once. It was her 12th college victory, making her the winningest golfer, man or woman, in Cardinal golf history, surpassing among others Tiger Woods.
“Wow… It’s finally happening,” Zhang posted. “I am excited to announced that I am officially turning professional and will be making my debut at the Mizuho LPGA next week! The endless love, support, and inspiration from so many people brought me to this point of my golf career. From my teammates to my coaches and trainers, to my friends and my family — you have all been integral in my journey, shaping me as a person and player while making sacrifices for my success. You have made it possible for me to pursue my dreams.”
The Stanford connection will continue as she makes her first LPGA Tour start at the Mizuho Americas Open at Liberty National in Jersey City, New Jersey, next week, hosted by fellow Cardinal Michelle Wie West.
It’s one of eight LPGA events the decorated amateur announced she will be playing during a self-described “packed summer.” Zhang has received exemptions into all four remaining majors on the schedule: KPMG Women’s PGA Championship (June 22-25), US Women’s Open (July 6-9), Amundi Evian Championship (July 27-30) and AIG Women’s Open August (10-13).
While Zhang was already in the field at the US Women’s Open and Women’s British Open, qualifying as an amateur, she required a special exemption from the USGA and R&A to play at Pebble Beach and Walton Heath as a professional. Both associations announced they had done so on Friday morning,
Along with the Mizuho America’s Open, Zhang will compete in three other LPGA events: Dana Open (July 13-16), CPKC Women’s Open (August 24-27) and Kroger Queen City Championship (September 7-16). And should she finish in the top 10 in any of these events, she can earn a spot into the next week’s LPGA Tour stop by virtue of a rules change that let’s non-members enjoy that opportunity.
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Zhang’s decision concludes a 141-consecutive week run as the No. 1 women’s golfer in the World Amateur Golf Rankings, starting after her 2020 US Women’s Amateur victory at Woodmont Country Club in Rockville, Maryland. Her amateur résumé soared from there.
Zhang won the 2021 US Girls’ Junior. Her amateur success led to earning the Mark H. McCormack Medal awarded to the No. 1 player in WAGR after the conclusion of the summer season, three straight years.
In college, Zhang won back-to-back Annika Awards in 2022 and 2023 as the national player of the year. Those 12 college wins came in just 20 starts, which sounds closer to an MLB pitcher’s record than a golfer’s win/loss split.
Zhang leaves plenty of ink in the NCAA record books as well. Her eight victories as a sophomore matches Lorena Ochoa’s record for most in a year, the LPGA Hall-of-Famer accomplishing the feat as a sophomore at the University of Arizona in 2001-02. Zhang set the NCAA single-season scoring record as a freshman in 2022 (69.68), then broke it this past season (68.81). Her collegiate career average (69.24) is an all-time mark as well.
“It’s cliché to say, but I never dreamed of having the opportunity to coach the greatest female amateur of all-time,” Anne Walker, Stanford women’s golf coach, said in a statement. “Rose Zhang has led our team with class both on and off the golf course every day for two years. She’s broken every record, won every championship and taken our team to the top of college golf. I’m quite certain I’ll never coach anyone quite like Rose again — she’s a generational player. Everyone at Stanford is better for having been around Rose and we are so glad she will be a Cardinal for Life.”
If there was any “hole” in her amateur career, if one as successful as Zhang’s could have one, it was filled in April when she claimed the Augusta National Women’s Amateur title in her fourth appearance, taking down Jenny Bae in a two-hole playoff.
Zhang’s amateur history extends to LPGA majors as well. She finished T-11 at the 2020 ANA Inspiration, with her 280 total the lowest amateur score in the history of the major, besting the previous mark of 281 set by Michelle Wie West (2004) and Caroline Keggi (1988). She was also the low amateur at last summer’s AIG Women’s Open at Muirfield.
With being the top player in the WAGR following the conclusion of the NCAA Championships, as the LPGA announced in April, Zhang is already exempt into the tour’s final qualification stage, Q-Series, starting at the end of November. Her eight tour starts between now and then give Zhang an opportunity to earn her tour card before then as well, either with a victory in an LPGA event or by earning the equivalent number of CME points (the currency the LPGA uses for status) in events with a cut to finish in the top 40 as a non-member to gain a card for next year.