Rose Zhang continues to make golf history
Rose Zhang. Get to know the name.
Driving the news: The Stanford sophomore made history this week, becoming the first women's golfer to win consecutive national titles.
- Zhang, who turned 20 on Wednesday, also tied World Golf Hall of Famer Lorena Ochoa's NCAA record for wins in a season (8) and career (12).
- Her 12 wins broke a Stanford record for men and women, a mark previously held by someone you may be familiar with: Tiger Woods.
Context: This is just the latest milestone for Zhang, who has already swept the most important amateur titles. She won the U.S. Women's Amateur in 2020 at age 17, the U.S. Girls' Junior in 2021 and the Augusta National Women's Amateur this April, where she broke the scoring record.
- The California native set the NCAA single-season scoring average record as a freshman (69.68), and she was even better this year (68.81). Is it any surprise that Adidas made her its first student-athlete to sign a name, image and likeness (NIL) deal?
- Zhang has been No. 1 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking for nearly three years, longer than any player in history. She's now expected to forgo her final two years of NCAA eligibility and move on to professional golf.
What they're saying: "She's the absolute GOAT," Stanford coach Anne Walker told Golf Digest this week. "She is the best amateur of all time."
The big picture: Many expected Zhang to turn pro directly out of high school, which is what phenoms like Lydia Ko, Nelly Korda and Lexi Thompson did before her. But Zhang chose the college route, mirroring the path typically taken by her male counterparts.
- It's rare for male phenoms to bypass college golf. Look no further than the world's top four players: No. 1 Scottie Scheffler played four years at Texas, No. 2 Jon Rahm played four years at Arizona State and No. 4 Patrick Cantlay played two years at UCLA.
- But on the women's side, only one player in the top 20 played college golf (No. 11 Céline Boutier played four years at Duke). If Zhang succeeds at the next level, perhaps more players will follow her lead in the future — especially now that NIL money is in play.
The bottom line: In 1996, a Stanford sophomore turned pro after dominating the college ranks and went on to become an all-time great. 27 years later, history may be repeating itself.