Sports

Zhang gives Stanford 2nd straight NCAA golf title

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Rose Zhang overcame a shaky front nine to shoot a 3-over 75 on Monday, capping her stellar freshman season with Stanford’s second straight individual NCAA championship.

Zhang was wobbly after an early birdie in the final individual round at Grayhawk’s Raptor Course, allowing Texas A&M’s Jenny Park to trim a seven-shot lead to three by the 10th hole. Zhang righted herself with a short birdie on the par-3 13th and pushed the lead back to five when Park three-putted for bogey.

The top player in the women’s amateur ranking two-putted for par on the par-5 18th and celebrated with her teammates on the same green where Rachel Heck became Stanford’s first national champion a year ago. Zhang finished at 6-under 282 to become the 10th freshman to win a national individual title.

San Jose State’s Natasha Andrea Oon shot a final-round 70 to finish at 3-under 285. Park also shot 70 to finish third at 287.

Zhang arrived at Stanford after a stellar junior career.

The Irvine, California, native became the third player to win the McCormack Medal as the world’s top amateur golfer more than once, and was the two-time Rolex junior player of the year.

Zhang became the eighth player to win the U.S. Women’s Amateur and U.S. Girls Junior Championship — and the first to win the Amateur first. She also represented the United States in the 2021 Curtis Cup and broke the amateur record in the LPGA Tour major then known as the ANA Inspiration in 2020.

Zhang’s dominance continued right into college. She became the first Stanford player — male or female — to win their first three events and was made All-Pac-12 first team.

Once she arrived in the desert, Zhang fought through windy conditions to open the NCAA championship with a 4-under 68 at Grayhawk and followed that with a 70. A third-round 69 put her seven shots ahead of Oregon’s Tze-Han Lin and Georgia’s Jenny Bae.

Zhang needed the cushion.

She had a birdie on the short par-4 second hole, but took a double bogey after her tee shot plugged in the greenside bunker on the par-3 fifth. Zhang failed to take advantage of the downwind par-5 seventh when second shot rolled onto a severe slope above the hole and had to make a 12-footer for bogey on the par-4 ninth after her second shot trickled off the green down a slope to the right.

Park took advantage of Zhang’s miscues, rolling in a birdie on the par-4 sixth and another up a big slope on the par-3 eighth. She pulled within three shots after Zhang three-putted for bogey on the par-4 10th to drop to 6 under.

Zhang took control again with her birdie on 13 and closed with three straight pars after three-putting the par-4 15th for a bogey.

Her individual title and Brooke Seay’s ace on the 135-yard 16th gave Stanford the top seed heading into Tuesday’s match play. Oregon, Texas A&M, UCLA, Auburn, Florida State, San Jose State and Georgia also qualified for match play.

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