Rose Zhang Makes History with Back-to-Back NCAA Women’s Golf Championship Victories
Phoenix, Arizona – Rose Zhang, a sophomore from Stanford University, cemented her status as a dominant force in amateur golf by securing consecutive national titles at the NCAA Championships. Zhang’s flawless performance not only earned her back-to-back victories, but it also set a remarkable milestone, surpassing even the legendary Lorena Ochoa.
On Monday, Zhang displayed exceptional skill, shooting a bogey-free round of 4-under 68. With this achievement, she became the first woman to win multiple national titles while also tying the NCAA record for the most wins in a season.
Reflecting on Zhang’s accomplishment, Stanford coach Anne Walker drew parallels between the rising star and the iconic Lorena Ochoa. “I was really fortunate to play at the same time as Lorena Ochoa, and I felt her greatness was unmatched. Rose Zhang really reminds me a lot of Lorena,” Walker remarked.
At the tender age of 20, Zhang has already amassed an impressive amateur resume. Her previous victories include the U.S. Women’s Amateur in 2020, the U.S. Girls’ Junior in 2021, and the Augusta National Women’s Amateur just last month.
Starting the final round four shots behind, Zhang steadily closed the gap and ultimately seized a one-shot lead when Lucia Lopez-Ortega from San Jose State encountered consecutive bogeys. Demonstrating composure under pressure, Zhang executed a delicate chip on the par-4 17th hole to save par. She then calmly tapped in for par on the 18th, securing her victory.
Zhang completed the tournament with an impressive score of 10-under 278 over 72 holes, matching Ochoa’s NCAA records for the most wins in a season (eight) and throughout a career (12). Notably, her 12 wins break the Stanford record for both male and female golfers, a record previously held by Tiger Woods and three others.
With Zhang’s triumph, Stanford players have clinched the individual NCAA title for three consecutive years. Rachel Heck, the reigning champion who is currently sidelined due to injury, secured the title as a freshman in 2021. Zhang’s outstanding performance has also helped Stanford secure the top seed heading into the match play phase of the competition, as they aim to capture consecutive national titles.
Reflecting on her remarkable achievement, Zhang admitted that she was unaware of the unfolding events until the conclusion of her round. “When you’re chasing from behind, you really don’t know what is happening until everything’s completed,” Zhang expressed. “To come off the 18th and have everyone telling you that you just won, that’s something that I wouldn’t have imagined starting out the day.”
Lopez-Ortega concluded her round with a birdie, carding a 71 to finish tied for second place at 9-under with Catherine Park from the University of Southern California. Park had an opportunity to tie Zhang but missed a short birdie putt on the par-5 18th hole.
Zhang’s freshman season was already record-breaking, as she set the NCAA’s single-season scoring record with an average of 69.68 while securing both individual and team championships. This season, she has elevated her game even further, arriving in the desert with an impressive scoring average of 68.70.
The victory at the NCAA Championships marks Zhang’s eighth win in ten starts this season, including victories at the Pac-12 Championships and the NCAA Pullman Regional.
Zhang made a quick comeback against Park, the overnight leader, by shooting a 3-under 33 on the front nine of Grayhawk’s Raptor Course. She secured a birdie on the par-5 11th, pushing her score
to 10-under. However, Lopez-Ortega managed to catch up with Zhang by birdieing the par-3 fifth hole after starting on the front nine.
As Lopez-Ortega’s performance faltered with consecutive bogeys, the stage was set for Zhang’s triumph. Standing on the par-5 18th hole, with 195 yards remaining, Zhang initially planned to go for the green with her second shot despite the presence of water to the right. However, Stanford coach Anne Walker intervened and advised her to lay up instead. Zhang followed her coach’s guidance, eventually two-putting for par and securing the championship.
“She was like, ‘No, no, you have a one-shot lead,'” Zhang revealed. “Then I thought, ‘Oh wait, maybe I should reconsider everything that just happened.'”
Park, who held the lead for most of the tournament, displayed remarkable progress throughout the season. She tied for second place at the Silverado Showdown and secured a third-place finish at the Pac-12 Championships. With a sensational second-round score of 64, she equaled the NCAA record and carried a two-shot lead into the final round at Grayhawk. However, Park’s performance on the final day proved inconsistent, and she ultimately finished in a tie for second place with Lopez-Ortega.
Park’s round included two birdies and a bogey on the short par-4 sixth hole, followed by a two-putt birdie on the par-5 seventh. A stroke of luck saved her from a potential bogey on the par-3 ninth, as her fast-running chip hit the flagstick. Nevertheless, she stumbled with a bogey on the par-4 ninth, relinquishing her lead. Although Park briefly regained a two-shot advantage with a curling putt on the par-4 12th, a three-putt on the steep slope of the par-4 15th dropped her back to second place, just one shot behind Zhang.
Park showcased her skills with an impressive chip shot from just short of the 18th hole, but unfortunately pushed her birdie putt right. Reflecting on the tumultuous final round, Park shared her mixed emotions, stating, “It was a roller coaster, a lot of emotions going on. I didn’t want to overthink it, but I was a little anxious.” Meanwhile, Zhang remained composed throughout, securing her place in the annals of women’s golf.
With her latest victory, Zhang has solidified her position as one of the sport’s rising stars. Her success serves as a testament to her remarkable talent, consistency, and unwavering determination. As she continues her journey, Zhang is set to leave an indelible mark on the world of golf, aiming for further achievements and accolades in the years to come.