Rose Zhang is the 1st golfer in 72 years to win LGPA event in same week as pro debut
MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
A bolt of energy. That is how some people in the golf world are describing 20-year-old golfer Rose Zhang, who became the first player in 72 years to win the week of making their professional debut on the LPGA tour.
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UNIDENTIFIED SPORTSCASTER: In her first start as a professional, she wins the Mizuho Americas Open.
ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
With views of Lower Manhattan in the background, Zhang was greeted on the 18th green in Jersey City with a bouquet of red roses to commemorate the moment. The golfing prodigy is used to winning, but she faced a lot of pressure to succeed. Beth Ann Nichols, senior writer for Golfweek, says that makes this moment even more special.
BETH ANN NICHOLS: I don't think there's a weakness in her game. I think every area of her game is strong. I think mentally is probably where she sets herself apart in that she has such a great perspective on the game at such a young age.
KELLY: Zhang was the top-ranked women's amateur for 141 weeks. She's won just about every major tournament in women's amateur golf.
SHAPIRO: Just last week she captured her second consecutive NCAA national championship as a 20-year-old sophomore at Stanford. And now Nichols says the world is her oyster.
NICHOLS: The LPGA doesn't have a household name in America. There are plenty of household names overseas. It's not like a Serena, right (laughter)? So I think that Rose, you know, could be that player, which - obviously it feels like we're keeping a lot of expectation on her and for good reason. But the LPGA sorely needs that.
KELLY: Golf Twitter was on fire when Zeng putted out for the win. And she even got a shoutout from another high-performing Stanford alum who is used to setting lofty achievements in the game. Tiger Woods congratulated Zhang on her, quote, "incredible few weeks." With an LPGA tour win in the bag, Zhang does not have to worry about qualifying for events. She gained an automatic membership with the victory.
SHAPIRO: But she won't be at this week's tour stop. Beth Ann Nichols says Zhang still has some unfinished business back home in California.
NICHOLS: She still has three final exams to go. And, you know, she's got to move out of her dorm. She's going to continue to take classes and finish her degree at Stanford. But I think that will be a good escape for her mentally to have something else to focus on and to have a bit of normalcy.
KELLY: Well, and here's hoping that success on tour continues to be part of Rose Zhang's new normal. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.