Zhang Beats Kupcho in Playoff to Capture Pro Debut on LPGA Tour

Rose Zhang winning a golf tournament isn’t all that unusual, but this one was.

Zhang, the two-time NCAA individual champion from Irvine and Stanford, made a par on the second playoff hole to beat Jennifer Kupcho and win her LPGA Tour debut in the Mizuho Americas Open at Liberty National Golf Course in Jersey City, N.J.

The last female player to win her professional debut was Beverly Hanson, who edged Babe Zaharias to capture the Eastern Open in 1951.

“What is happening? I just can’t believe it,” said Zhang, who also won the Augusta Women’s National Amateur recently among her 28 victories as an amateur in recent years. “It was just last week when I won the NCAAs with my teammates, and to turn pro and come out here, it’s just been amazing. I’ve enjoyed the journey.

“This golf course is rough. I really got a bit of everything. Got a taste of the pressure (on the LPGA Tour). I got a taste of the wind. I tried to stay composed as always. I knew that golf was just a grind, and you really have to dig deep. once again, that’s what I did. And I’m glad I’m here.

“I didn’t know where I stood because I didn’t look at the scoreboard until the 16th hole,  but I’m so happy the way it wound up with all my friends and family here.”

Zhang, who turned 20 earlier this week, finished with a score of 70-69-66-74—279, nine-under-par, making 16 pars and two bogeys in the final round, while Kupcho, who won the 2019 Augusta Women’s Amateur and has three LPGA Tour victories, wound up at 71-70-69-69—279.  

As soon as it was over, Zhang was surrounded by close friends who presented her with several bouquets of red flowers.

“I honestly didn’t even expect to make the cut at the beginning of the week, and the reason why I say this is because I don’t think about my expectations a lot,” said Zhang, who was the No. 1-ranked amateur in the world until turning pro at the beginning of the week.

“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 on 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’s performance got the attention of Tiger Woods, the greatest Stanford golfer ever  and perhaps the greatest of all-time. Woods took to Twitter to acknowledge Zhang’s latest feat.

“Incredible few weeks for Rose Zhang, defends her NCAA title and then wins in her Pro debut. Go Card!” Woods wrote.

When Zhang captured the NCAA individual title last week, it was her 12th individual title with the Cardinal, breaking the school record of 11 shared by Woods, Maverick McNealy and Patrick Rodgers.

For complete results, visit https://www.lpga.com/tournaments/mizuho–americas-open/results          

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