Rising Star Rose Zhang Wins On LPGA Tour Debut

The 20-year-old only turned pro in May, but she becomes the first player since 1951 to win on her first LPGA Tour professional start

Rose Zhang Wins Debut
Rose Zhang was all smiles after winning on her LPGA Tour debut at the Mizuho Americas Open
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Rose Zhang survived a tense playoff against Jennifer Kupcho at the Mizuho Americas Open to become the first player to win an LPGA Tour event on professional debut since 1951.

Zhang and Kupcho were tied atop the leaderboard at 9-under-par and twice replayed the 18th hole at Liberty National Golf Course, but it was the 20-year-old from Stanford who prevailed.

“I honestly didn't even expect to make the cut, and the reason why I say this is because I don't think about my expectations a lot,” said Zhang, who turned professional on May 26, and received a sponsor's invite into the Mizuho Americas Open.

Rose Zhang wins Mizuho Americas Open

Rose Zhang lifts the trophy after beating Jennifer Kupcho in a playoff 

(Image credit: Getty Images)

“I think about playing the golf course. I think about trying to shoot the best score that I can. Obviously I have frustrations, disappointments with my game, but I never once think about where I finish, where I should finish, et cetera.

“So with that my mind, the expectation for me winning did not even cross my mind. I was just playing my game. I was having a good time out there. This is the game that I love, and I'm so thankful to be a professional doing it now.”

Zhang entered the final round with a two-shot lead, but she failed to card a single birdie on a course that was playing “rough”. After a bogey on 4, she made 13 consecutive pars, before dropping one at the last, with her par effort leaking right of the cup.

Kupcho, meanwhile, fired a beautiful 69. However, after both made pars on the 18th in the first playoff hole, Kupcho saw her bid for victory unravel when her long range birdie effort went past the hole and off the green.

And Zhang two-putted for victory in front of her “great mentor”, Michelle Wie West, somebody the extraordinary talent, unsurprisingly, has been compared to already. 

“Michelle Wie is a true influence to the game of golf, women's golf,” said a delighted Zhang. “For her to come out and host and come out and support me is just so incredible.

“She's just such a great mentor, a great friend. Especially seeing her on 18, that really brought me to tears. I really thought about all the efforts that she puts into this event to make it possible.

“She's just been so supportive from day one, and especially with this week being my pro debut, she really gave me some words, just to have fun, go out there, and do what you know.

“Especially this morning, she also texted me and she went out of her way to text me. That's not something that a lot of people do. But I take these words very seriously, and I'm sure that… it's just a true honor.”

Wie West was one of many of the game’s big stars to have congratulated Zhang. Clearly a lot of players had tuned in to watch history being made, Tiger Woods being just one of those.

“Incredible few weeks for Rose Zhang, defends her NCAA title and then wins in her Pro debut. Go card!,” Woods said in a tweet.

For golf fans, especially Zhang’s legion of young followers, the ‘Rose Buds’, there will be plenty more opportunities to see the sport’s new superstar in action.

After her victory, Zhang confirmed that she would be taking LPGA Tour membership, which also meant that she gained CME points and official money from the Mizuho Americas Open.

Michael Weston
Contributing editor

Michael has been with Golf Monthly since 2008. As a multimedia journalist, he has also worked for The Football Association, where he created content to support the men's European Championships, The FA Cup, London 2012, and FA Women's Super League. As content editor at Foremost Golf, Michael worked closely with golf's biggest equipment manufacturers, and has developed an in-depth knowledge of this side of the industry. He's now a regular contributor, covering instruction, equipment and feature content. Michael has interviewed many of the game's biggest stars, including six world number ones, and has attended and reported on many Major Championships and Ryder Cups. He's a member of Formby Golf Club.