Former Stanford star Rose Zhang off to strong start on LPGA Tour debut at Liberty National

Former Stanford star Rose Zhang officially made her LPGA Tour debut on Thursday at Liberty National Golf Course, just .

While her round was by no means outstanding, posting a 2-under 70 to kick off the Mizuho Americas Open in New Jersey, Zhang was thrilled to leave the course with her first professional round under her belt.

“I think it’s good to have started a little early. It really calmed the nerves a bit, just because you wake up and start your prep work,” she said after the round.

“But for me, I was just going out there and trying to shoot my best score. A lot has happened the last few days, so I really wanted to put myself in a position to be able to go out there and play some golf and see what I can do.

in history. The Irvine, Calif., native was the first woman to win back-to-back NCAA titles at Stanford and set the single-season scoring record twice. She averaged 69.42 in 62 rounds and won 12 of the 20 college tournaments she entered. Tiger Woods has won just 11 times in his 26 starts at Stanford.

Zhang has been ranked No. 1 in the World Amateur Golf Rankings for a record 141 consecutive weeks since September 2020. She made the cut at the US Women’s Open in 2019, when she was just 16, and finished 11th at the 2020 ANA Inspiration, which is one of the LPGA’s five major championships.

Rose Zhang

Rose Zhang, 20, posted a 2-under 70 to kick off the Mizuho Americas Open on Thursday. (AP/John Minchillo)

Although all eyes are on her now that she’s going to be a regular on the Tour, Zhang isn’t bothered by expectations.

“I honestly think there are people around me who treat me very normally, treat me as I am, and that keeps me grounded,” she said. “I have a really good support system around me, and that allows me to do what I do. I don’t really have to think about other people’s expectations. Like I said before, I take it as a compliment that they think I’m capable of doing more.

“But on a general level, I think I have people who just want me to do my best and they push me to be better.”

Zhang got off to a great start on Thursday and had several great moments up his sleeve. She had three birdies in her first six holes, then competed on the 13th.

After that chip-in, however, Zhang bogeyed back-to-back holes. A late birdie took her to 2 under the day, and even on the back nine. She will enter Friday five strokes behind early leader Lauren Hartlage, who hit a career low of 65.

“It was definitely a round that could have been better, and it makes me want to work harder and develop my game even more,” Zhang said.

“I felt like I left a few shots there, and I think there’s a lot of room for improvement. So I’m excited to keep working and playing to see how far I’ve come. can bring my game.”

Zhang will start the second round on Friday afternoon alongside Chella Choi and Alison Lee. Choi is also 2 under after his first round, and Lee is two under even.

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