Rose Zhang has exceeded the realistic expectations for any rookie on the LPGA Tour, winning her maiden event as a pro and going on to represent the United States Solheim Cup team in Spain.
She easily qualified for this week’s CME Group Tour Championship, sitting 24th in the standings. She’s also a career-best 26th in the Women’s Rolex World Rankings.
But life on the LPGA Tour hasn’t been all flowers for the record-setting amateur star since leaving Stanford in the spring.
“A lot of life lessons thus far,” Zhang, 20, said Wednesday. “I feel like all I wanted was to learn what it’s like inside the ropes, learn how to take care of my team, handle my body, navigate kind of the dynamics of both media and golf.
“So, I’ve been trying to focus on the big picture of everything, and I think that’s kind of the biggest thing. I just want to kind of have fun, build relationships, and ultimately that’s kind of what I did.”
After a blistering start to her professional career that saw Zhang follow up a win at the Mizuho America’s Open with three more top-10s in her next four events, she hit a bit of a rut. She failed to post a top-25 over her next seven events.
That spanned the Solheim Cup, where Zhang struggled to an 0-2-1 record. That included a 4&3 singles loss to Leona Maguire as the U.S. failed to win the Cup back from Europe.
Zhang has rebounded of late, holding the 54-hole lead at the Maybank Championship before settling for a T3 and posting a T15 at the Toto Japan Classic. Overall, she graded her rookie year a “solid B.”
“I just feel like I could have done a lot better in ways of kind of handling myself on tour and I feel like there is always room for improvements,” Zhang said. “When it’s ‘A,’ I feel like everything is just very solid, you know what you’re doing.
“As of now I feel like there is still a lot more room to improve on and I think I can do better.”
There’s also still room to improve on her season grade. This week’s season-ending event includes the top 60 players in the standings, and the $7 million tournament purse includes $2 million to the winner.
Zhang also reflected on being at the East Lake Cup with Stanford almost a year ago this week, when she decided that she would leave school after her sophomore year to pursue her LPGA dream. She conceded that winning, playing on a Solheim Cup team and qualifying for the CME were not goals she imagined accomplishing over her first six months as a pro.
“I’m so grateful. Just starting off in June it was kind of my debut and everything followed quickly after, playing all the majors and then getting all those sponsor’s exemptions and not needing those sponsor’s exemptions and playing throughout Asia. It’s been a very busy and fulfilling season,” she said.
“I’m really glad to be here and just being here, being able to compete this week let alone, is already a great achievement for me.”
–Field Level Media