In a move long anticipated, Rose Zhang, the two-time NCAA women’s golf individual champion and longtime world No. 1 amateur, announced Friday she’s turning professional.
The Stanford sophomore will pro debut in the inaugural Mizuho Americas Open at Liberty National Golf Club next week. Zhang, who turned 20 on Wednesday, announced her move on Instagram. She’ll hold a news conference next Tuesday in Jersey City, N.J., according to her agent, Kevin Hopkins, of Excel Sports Management.
Zhang’s pro debut will be one of the most anticipated in women’s professional golf history. Zhang made the cut in the 2019 U.S. Women’s Open as a 16-year-old, won the 2020 U.S. Amateur, and finished tied for 11th at the 2020 ANA Inspiration, an LPGA major. She could’ve turned pro then, but opted to enroll at Stanford. While most expected her to play only one season of collegiate golf, she instead spent two years with the Cardinal.
Those two seasons produced a historical run. Zhang won 12 of 20 college tournaments, winning at an unheard-of rate. She broke Tiger Woods’ school record for total wins while playing six fewer tournaments. She also matched Lorena Ochoa for the most wins in Pac-12 women’s golf history.
Zhang won both the 2022 and 2023 women’s individual national championships and led Stanford to the 2022 team national title. She’s also won the U.S. Women’s Amateur, the U.S. Girls Junior and the Augusta National Women’s Amateur.
All told, Zhang has ranked No. 1 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking since September 2020, a record.
How good is Zhang?
The accolades are too numerous to list, but of all them, the most jarring feat from Zhang is perhaps her college scoring record.
As a freshman, the then-18-year-old set the NCAA single season record of 69.68 in 31 rounds played.
Then, as a sophomore, she broke that record, shaving nearly a full stroke (0.98) off her previous total, and establishing a new mark of 68.70 in 27 rounds.
In total, 50 of Zhang’s 58 rounds as a collegian ended at par or better. She shot 31 rounds in the 60s. In addition to her 12 wins, she posted six other top 10s.
It’s long been speculated that, while playing as an amateur, Zhang essentially translated to a top-15 or top-20 player in the world. There’s no exact measure for that, but Zhang is expected to compete immediately in the professional ranks.
Her coaches often say that it’s not one area of Zhang’s game that sticks out the most — driving, ball-striking, short game — but instead the whole of her parts and her decision-making.
What’s Zhang’s impact on women’s professional golf?
Having previously signed significant name, image and likeness deals while in college, Zhang will enter the pro ranks with massive sponsorships already in place. She holds seven-figure deals with Callaway, Adidas and others.
Zhang’s amateur career was always a point of fascination among golf fans. She’ll draw attention early and often as a professional.
This summer, she’s expected to play in all five majors and, if all goes to plan, use a series of tournament exemptions to secure her LPGA Tour card.
After the Mizuho Americas, over the next two months, Zhang will play in the U.S. Women’s Open at Pebble Beach (June 22-25), the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship at Baltusrol (July 6-9), the Dana Open (July 13-16) and the Evian Championship (July 27-30).
(Photo: Christian Petersen /Getty Images)