Stanford women’s golf star Zhang turns pro

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Stanford sophomore Rose Zhang, the most decorated player in amateur women’s golf history, announced on Friday that she’s turning pro.

The first woman to win two NCAA Division I individual national championships, Zhang will make her LPGA debut at next week’s inaugural Mizuho Americas Open at Liberty National Golf Club in Jersey City, New Jersey.

“The endless love, support and inspiration from so many people brought me to this point of my golf career,” Zhang posted to Instagram. “From my teammates to my coaches and trainers, to my friends and family — you have all been integral in my journey, shaping me as a person and player while making sacrifices for my success. You have made it possible for me to pursue my dreams.”

The United States Golf Association, shortly after Zhang’s announcement, granted her a special exemption Friday into the U.S. Women’s Open, which will be played July 6-9 at Pebble Beach Golf Links in Pebble Beach, California.

The 20-year-old Zhang, from Irvine, California, also has been given an exemption and is expected to compete in the AIG Women’s Open at Walton Heath Golf Club in Surrey, England, on Aug. 10-13.

She is a three-time winner of the McCormack Medal, which is given annually to the top amateur player in the world by the R&A. She held the No. 1 ranking in the Women’s World Amateur Golf Ranking for a record 141 consecutive weeks, dating back to September 2020.

In two seasons at Stanford, Zhang won 12 times in 20 starts, including eight times in 10 events this season. Tiger Woods won 11 times in 26 starts during his career with the Cardinal.

Zhang won the Annika Award as the top women’s player in college golf the past two seasons. She twice set NCAA single-season scoring records with a 69.68 average as a freshman and 68.81 as a sophomore. She had a 69.42 average in 62 collegiate rounds.

“Stanford is truly a special place with special people,” Zhang wrote in her post. “I would never take these incredible memories and experiences for granted. With that in mind, while I am pursuing my professional career, I will continue to earn my degree in the years to come. Stanford fam forever.”

As an amateur, Zhang won the 2020 U.S. Women’s Amateur, 2021 U.S. Girls’ Junior and the Augusta National Women’s Amateur in April.

“It’s cliche to say, but I never dreamed of having the opportunity to coach the greatest female amateur of all-time,” Stanford coach Anne Walker said in a statement. “Rose Zhang has led our team with class both on and off the golf course every day for two years. She’s broken every record, won every championship and taken our team to the top of college golf. I’m quite certain I’ll never coach anyone quite like Rose again — she’s a generational player.”

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