AUGUSTA, Ga. – Rose Zhang approached the microphone with a smile. The first query requested of her was to describe the journey on the par-5 13th.
“I duck-hooked a drive,” Zhang started as she went blow-by-blow via the triple-bogey eight that derailed her run on the Augusta National Women’s Amateur title.
Zhang chalked it up to dangerous course administration.
When was the final time she’d made a triple?
“It was … I can’t, honestly,” she mentioned laughing. The writers gathered ’spherical laughed too.
Those who know 17-year-old Zhang finest say she’s type, humble and humorous. That was on full show when she got here up one shot brief of a playoff at Augusta National, watching a 12-foot birdie putt on the 18th slide proper of the outlet.
What’s next for Zhang?
Many count on the No. 1-ranked novice on the planet to flip skilled. Her recreation is clearly prepared for that next step. She’s arguably the perfect American junior golfer to come alongside in a decade and lots of surprise how time at Stanford beginning later this fall may probably assist her advance.
“I think, for me, I have a lot of maturing to do,” mentioned Rose, who’d simply knocked the socks off a half a dozen scribes together with her clear and sunny perspective. “I just think that college is the place where I’ll be able to play even better, shoot better scores and mature as a person and character.”
She mentioned it so sincerely.
Rose Zhang through the remaining spherical of the Augusta National Women’s Amateur at Augusta National Golf Club on April 03, 2021 in Augusta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
“A lot of us want a little more than just golf,” mentioned Stanford sophomore Angelina Ye, who completed fifteenth and walked most of the again 9 with Zhang.
Tiger Woods performed two years at Stanford. Annika Sorenstam performed two years at Arizona, as did Lorena Ochoa. Phil Mickelson gained three NCAA titles at ASU.
Only one American has earned LPGA Player of the Year honors since 1994 and that was Arkansas graduate Stacy Lewis in 2012 and 2014.
George Pinnell has labored with Zhang for six years and mentioned the laser-focused teen not often has time away from her golf and research.
“For all of us, it’s a good time for us to get away from home and develop,” mentioned Pinnell of school, “and be on our own. Learn how to socialize with other people.”
Ye’s favourite half about school life is staff camaraderie. The LPGA could be a lonely life, mentioned Ye. The identical goes for junior golf, too.
“I love Rose,” mentioned one other future Cardinal teammate Rachel Heck, “I think everybody does. I don’t think one person could say a negative thing about Rose.”
Over the previous 12 months Zhang, who gained the 2020 U.S. Women’s Amateur, has realized how rapidly life can change after struggling a wrist harm that plagued her all through the second half of 2020 and left her sidelined for six weeks over the winter.
For a participant who simply grasps big-picture views, the worth of a back-up plan absolutely isn’t misplaced on her.
“I think she’s going to blow any hard worker I’ve ever had on my team away,” mentioned Cardinal coach Anne Walker. “She is disciplined beyond belief.”
Pinnell, 75, credit Zhang’s father Henry for her sturdy psychological strategy, saying that she thrives on the challenges he presents. Henry, who’s normally on the bag, adopted each shot at Augusta from outdoors the ropes.
Walker credit Pinnell for not solely being a swing coach however a mentor, too. He’s labored with 50 AJGA All-Americans over time, together with a younger Kevin Na and Anthony Kim.
“We see so many coaches with elite talent who don’t totally know what to do with that talent,” mentioned Walker, “and they get overwhelmed with it themselves.”
Rose Zhang hugs Ingrid Lindblad on the 18th inexperienced through the remaining spherical of the Augusta National Women’s Amateur at Augusta National Golf Club on April 03, 2021 in Augusta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Not the case with Pinnell, who spends a lot of time with Zhang engaged on construction within the golf swing. They like to hold it tight with few loose-moving elements. Her pure tempo is fantastically easy and unteachable. Zhang processes issues in a different way, he mentioned.
When pressed for an instance, Pinnell tells a story from the AJGA Ping Invitational final October, when Zhang fell 4 strokes again after a 75.
After the spherical she went out to the vary and began taking sluggish methodical swings with a 9-iron, going via the basics that she’s labored on with Pinnell all these years.
After a number of minutes she threw the membership again within the bag and advised her father – “I’ve got it” – and that it was time to have a good dinner and relaxation. She by no means really hit a golf ball.
The next day, Zhang shot 67 and gained the event.
Pinnell didn’t hear that story till a week later, and in that second he lastly understood why she not often contacts him throughout a event with questions. She’s too busy self-correcting.
Pinnell, like so many others, believes Zhang may very well be a generational sort of participant: “I think that is in her veins.”
When on the highway with Zhang at an occasion, the coach and pupil have a most uncommon pre-game routine. After pleasantries are exchanged on the elevator, Rose goes into game-face mode. They pile into a automobile, pushed by Henry, and normally head to the course in silence.
As the warmup begins on the vary, it stays quiet. Pinnell doesn’t communicate until Zhang initiates. The self-discipline and focus are off-the-charts excessive.
Which is what makes Rose’s response to a powerful loss all of the extra spectacular. She takes the sport severely, but accepts the outcomes as they arrive.
“It’s just I think sometimes you can’t really be too hard on yourself,” she mentioned, “especially when you are on the greatest stage of amateur golf. This is Augusta National. I think it’s our responsibility to just be excited and happy to be on this golf course and to be able to be in contention.
“I don’t really want to take any bad memories away from here.”