Rose Zhang Has Arrived With Historic LPGA Win

By: Jill Painter Lopez - Jun 14, 2023

Everything is coming up roses on the LPGA Tour, and it’s a better watch party than The Bachelorette rose ceremonies.

Rose Zhang - the former No. 1 amateur in the world for a record 141 weeks - won the very first professional event she entered at the Mizuho Americas Open. There was a wonderful party on the green of joy and jubilation and roses. It’s the kind we’re likely to see for years to come.

Zhang is the new face of women's golf, and roses are the unofficial new flower of the LPGA.

After winning back-to-back NCAA individual golf titles while at Stanford, Zhang - an Arcadia native who prepped at Pacific Academy in Irvine - turned professional. She took the momentum from winning 8 of 10 college tournaments (tied for most in a season by a female college golfer) and the 2023 Augusta National Women’s Amateur. In 2019, she competed in her first U.S. Open at age 16. In 2021, she won the U.S. Girls Junior Amateur. Her resume’ goes on and on and on with accolades.

“The expectation for me winning didn’t even cross my mind,” Zhang said of her debut. “I was just playing my game. I was having a good time out there. This is the game that I love, and I’m so thankful to be a professional doing it now.”

She’s had arguably the best amateur career of any golfer. You can stack hers right up there with Tiger Woods, who tweeted his congratulations after the Mizuho Americas Open. They both played junior golf growing up in Southern California. And both won eight college tournaments in one college season.

Zhang’s Mizuho win, the tournament hosted by Michelle Wie West, is the first time an LPGA player has won in her professional debut since 1951 when Beverly Hanson did it.

Hall of Famer and Santa Monica native Amy Alcott didn’t win her professional debut in 1975, but she won in her third event, the Orange Blossom Classic, on her 19th birthday and went on to win rookie of the year. She knows a little something about immediate success.

“I look at a talent like Rose and see how gifted she is,” Alcott said. “To come out and have the gumption and the game … but you can’t compare generations. You can’t compare Babe Zaharias and Mickey Wright to the JoAnn Carners and the (Nancy) Lopez’s and Alcotts and Pat Bradley and Patty Sheehan. It’s impossible to compare the generations, but it’s wonderful to see someone step up to the plate like Tiger and take the mark to the next step. That’s what you’re seeing. Plus, she’s a very nice person and humble.”

Alcott has met Zhang several times, and has told her to enjoy the victories.

“I tell all the young players, Lexi Thompson and everybody. You don’t win often, you have to embrace your stardom,” Alcott said. “She obviously has the poise and is a player beyond her years.”

Zhang has burst onto the stage at an exciting time in golf. Can she be the next Alcott or Annika Sorenstam or Lorena Ochoa or Wie West? Zhang has the type of game and composure as a teenager that was seen in Wie West when she turned pro at 15. To see them celebrate Zhang’s first victory together was beautiful for golf.

“I can't emphasize it enough, Michelle Wie is a true influence to the game of golf, women's golf,” Zhang said. “For her to come out and host and come out and support me is just so incredible. She's just such a great mentor, a great friend. Especially seeing her on 18, that really brought me to tears. I really thought about all the efforts that she puts into this event to make it possible.”

And now Zhang will surely be a role model for so many, something she embraces.

Said Zhang, “I feel like I’ve been given this platform to try to do the best that I can, be an influence to younger generations and that’s all I kind of think about.”

FORE Her, in Your Inbox

All about women in and around the game, subscribe to FORE Her and receive monthly unique stories, news and events updates.