Rose Zhang turned professional just nine days ago, leaving behind her stunning amateur career for the tour ranks.
Many will have tipped her to achieve great success on the LPGA Tour – but perhaps not as soon as her very first start at the Mizuho Americas Open.
Zhang tied for the lead with last year’s Chevron Championship winner Jennifer Kupcho, so a playoff was needed as the light faded at Liberty National Golf Club.
After halving the first hole back down the 18th, Zhang hit an approach shot she’ll never forget on the second playoff hole. This was good enough for par versus Kupcho’s eventual bogey.
The 20-year-old became the first player to win on her professional debut on the tour since Beverly Hanson in 1951.
“The final shot on 18, the second shot, was one of the best shots that I’ve ever hit, especially with me being under pressure,” Zhang said.
“Managing to hit a 180-yard shot to six, seven feet, really enabled me to put myself in a position where I can two-putt for par and seal the deal.
Unbelievable. 👏— National Club Golfer (@NCG_com) June 5, 2023
Rose Zhang won the Mizuho Americas Open, becoming the first player to win on their pro debut on the LPGA Tour since 1951! 🏆 🤯pic.twitter.com/TiizDRe124
“It was a very difficult shot with the wind pushing against me, but it went well.
“I honestly didn’t even expect to make the cut,” she added, “and the reason why I say this is because I don’t think about my expectations a lot.
“I think about playing the golf course. I think about trying to shoot the best score that I can. Obviously, I have frustrations and disappointments with my game, but I never once think about where I finish, where I should finish, et cetera.
“So with that my mind, the expectation for me winning did not even cross my mind. 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.”
In the aftermath in New Jersey, Zhang revealed she’d taken up full membership on the LPGA Tour in 2023, with an exciting schedule ahead including four major championships.
She was also informed that it took Annika Sorenstam and Lorena Ochoa over 30 starts to get their first LPGA Tour wins, while it also took Lydia Ko until her 10th appearance on the circuit.
“I did not know that stat, first of all,” Zhang responded. “That’s just so cool. I’m so blessed.
“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 think about.”
The final round was certainly a challenging one for the entire field. Zhang held the 54-hole lead with a two-shot advantage, but carded a 74 to drop back level with Kupcho.
Zhang won the Augusta National Women’s Amateur in April via a playoff against Jenny Bae, and she did so again on Sunday against her major-winning opponent and fellow ANWA and NCAA champion.
Unfortunately, Zhang won’t be teeing it up at the ShopRite LPGA Classic this week as she sails back down to earth.
She revealed she has an essay due in the next few days and then she is moving, so the bright start to her pro career will be on hold for a brief moment.
Follow NCG on Twitter!