'I'm Just Learning As I Go' - Zhang Proud Of First Major Round As A Pro

Rose Zhang showed she can handle the Major grind after recovering from two early bogeys to shoot under par in the KPMG Women's PGA Championship

Rose Zhang at the 2023 KPMG Women's PGA Championship
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Rose Zhang says she felt pretty calm in her first Major appearance as a pro, and is just treating every event as a learning experience after a battling performance at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship.

Amateur sensation Zhang was two over after four holes at Baltusrol but showed great character to match her undoubted ability to respond with three birdies and no more dropped shots to card a fine one-under round of 70.

It put Zhang in T12 and just four shots off the lead, but she says she spent more time looking at esteemed playing partners Lexi Thompson and Minjee Lee than she did leaderboards as she tries to soak up every bit of knowledge she can.

“Every single day I feel like as a professional now, I'm learning so much,” said Zhang after her opening round. “I'm just really trying to learn how it is inside the ropes, how players operate.

“I was playing with Lexi and Minjee, and these are people that I've watched on TV since I was younger. Just understanding how they do things and how they operate, I'm just learning along as I go.”

Zhang, who won her very first event as a pro on the LPGA, says her first taste of a Major in the professional ranks was just as tough as she imagined it would be, but she managed to stay calm throughout.

“Nothing that I didn't expect,” she added. “I knew when you're going to be out here, it's going to be very difficult, and you're going to have to try to claw your way back when things aren't going your way.

“I felt pretty calm for the most part. I definitely felt like I was searching my golf game just a little bit because there were a couple adjustments that I felt that were uncomfortable for me when I was out there. I feel like this is just who I am. I'm trying to keep it as calm as possible.

“First and foremost, you really do have to grind when you're out here. You're not going to hit perfect shots, and even if you do hit perfect shots, you need to be in the position to where you place the ball properly on these greens.

“It just showed that I had great course management. I made a lot of clutch par putts, showed that I had the grind in me, and anyone who shoots red figures here should be pretty proud of what they were doing out there.”

Zhang became the first woman since Beverly Hanson in 1951 to win on her LPGA professional debut – which also made her eligible for this year’s Solheim Cup, with captain Stacy Lewis already talking her up.

The win took the pressure off instantly for Zhang after huge expectations placed on her when turning pro, and she says she’s striking a balance between being happy with that and being thirsty for more.

“I definitely feel like there's a balance in between both,” Zhang said. “I always have high expectations for myself in terms of my preparation and how I'm supposed to perform, regardless of what my position is or what place I finish.

“I think that - I don't have any expectations when it comes to the rest of the season or what I'm going to do. It's more so just learn. I treat this entire year as a fresh rookie year where I'm trying to learn as much as possible and navigate myself in this real professional world.”

Paul Higham

Paul Higham is a sports journalist with over 20 years of experience in covering most major sporting events for both Sky Sports and BBC Sport. He is currently freelance and covers the golf majors on the BBC Sport website.  Highlights over the years include covering that epic Monday finish in the Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor and watching Rory McIlroy produce one of the most dominant Major wins at the 2011 US Open at Congressional. He also writes betting previews and still feels strangely proud of backing Danny Willett when he won the Masters in 2016 - Willett also praised his putting stroke during a media event before the Open at Hoylake. Favourite interviews he's conducted have been with McIlroy, Paul McGinley, Thomas Bjorn, Rickie Fowler and the enigma that is Victor Dubuisson. A big fan of watching any golf from any tour, sadly he spends more time writing about golf than playing these days with two young children, and as a big fair weather golfer claims playing in shorts is worth at least five shots. Being from Liverpool he loves the likes of Hoylake, Birkdale and the stretch of tracks along England's Golf Coast, but would say his favourite courses played are Kingsbarns and Portrush.