- Alistair Tait
Remember The Name: Rose Zhang
Have we seen the future of women’s golf, and is her name Rose Zhang?
Steady on, I hear you say, you’re the man who’s always saying predict future superstars at your peril. True, so let’s not hand the precocious teenager a trophy cabinet full of major silverware just yet.
Predicting how child prodigies will fare in the future is a bit like trying to guess winning lottery numbers. But remember the name: Zhang looks like the real deal.
The world’s number woman amateur has wasted no time in living up to that billing in her debut season in the tough grind that is American college golf. She’s won her first three tournaments. Not even Stanford alumni Tiger Woods managed that.
Zhang arrived at Stanford with a string of amateur accomplishments to her name to match what Woods achieved in the unpaid game. Among them a two-time Mark H McCormack Medal winner (2020 and 2021) as the leading player on the World Amateur Golf Ranking; 2020 U.S. Women’s Amateur champion; 2021 U.S. Girls’ Champion; two-time Rolex Junior Player of the Year; a member of the victorious 2021 U.S. Curtis Cup team; low amateur in the 2020 ANA Inspiration with an 11th place finish. I could go on, but you get the drift.
Zhang opened her college account by winning the Molly Collegiate Invitational before adding the Windy City Collegiate Classic the following week. She was just warming up.
The Irvine, California native has just won the Stanford Intercollegiate by four shots after rounds of 65, 65 and 67 for a 16-under 197 to tie teammate Rachel Heck for Stanford's 54-hole scoring record. Zhang has played her first nine rounds of college golf in in 23 under par, with an average score of 69.1. Former colleague Beth Ann Nichols quotes Stanford women’s golf coach Anne Walker as saying:
“She’s everything I thought she would be. She’s more golf genius than I realised, but that doesn’t surprise me.”
Walker expanded on that notion to the Stanford website. She said:
“Her patience is unreal. She’s obviously spent many hours of work. She doesn’t make many mistakes. She has a lot of great opportunities and when she has those opportunities she has the mental fortitude to stay patient, stay calm, stay focussed. Watching her overall, the big word that I take away is the sheer joy of watching a very patient player. Several people say this reminds them of when Tiger was here back in the 90s.”
Woods won two of his first three tournaments in the 1994/95 American college season.
As we know, amateur success doesn’t guarantee riches in professional golf. There are too many stories of beacons of light that burned out as soon as money became all important.
However, Zhang looks like she could step onto the LPGA Tour right now and make an impact. She's already 263rd on the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings. Aside from 11th in last year’s ANA, she made the cut in Evian Championship this year.
Remember the name: Rose Zhang
RIP Dave Hamilton
Less than a week after the death of Renton Laidlaw, news comes that fellow golf writer Dave Hamilton has gone to that great press tent in the sky.
Not many reading this will know of the Dave Hamilton. He operated in another age when local newspapers actually covered golf extensively, amateur and professional, back when people read local newspapers. He covered Essex and the South East of England and he knew his beat, knew the officials and the players in his region and chronicled their stories, their progress, exposing them to a wide audience.
I spent time last year with Dave when he, myself and Martin Vousden visited the late Bill Robertson’s widow Caroline. We paid a visit to Bill’s grave and then sat around swapping old stories. Dave looked hale and healthy and said he still played golf a few times a week.
Dave was a member of the Association of Golf Writers since 1986, giving great service to the association over the years. Annual AGW dinners at the Open Championship would not have taken place if not for the sterling work of Dave and former AGW treasurer Bob Davies.
#JustSaying: “I do believe that the best sports psychologist in the world is a square clubface at impact.” Rory McIlroy
Photograph courtesy of the Ladies European Tour