Thursday, July 18, 2024

Rose Zhang of Stanford first to win back-to-back NCAA women's golf titles


Scottsdale, Ariz. Rose Zhang of Stanford shot a bogey-free 4-under 68 on Monday to become the first female golfer to win back-to-back national titles and equal the NCAA record for wins in a season.

It was the latest victory for Zhang, who already held the most important amateur title in women’s golf. Zhang, who turns 20 on Wednesday, won the US Women’s Amateur in 2020, the US Girls’ Junior in 2021 and the Augusta National Women’s Amateur this April.

Leading by one after consecutive bogeys by San Jose State’s Lucia López-Ortega, Zhang saved par with a delicate chip on the par-4 17th hole at Greyhawk Golf Club and tapped for par on No. 18 and several more. Became the first woman to win the national title. ,

Zhang finished at 10 under to tie former Arizona player and LPGA Hall of Famer Lorena Ochoa’s NCAA records for wins in a single season (eight) and career (12). Her 12 wins tied the Stanford record for men or women held by Tiger Woods and three others.

Zhang helped Stanford get the top seed going into Tuesday’s matchup in its bid to win consecutive national titles.

López-Ortega ended her round with a birdie to shoot a 71. She tied for second with Katherine Park of Southern California at 9 under, who missed a short birdie putt on the par-5 18th that would have tied her with Zhang.

Zhang, who is from Irvine, California, had a record-breaking freshman season, setting the NCAA single-season scoring mark at 69.68 while winning the individual and team championships. She has been even better this season, arriving in the desert with a 68.70 scoring average.

San Jose State golfer Lucia Lopez-Ortega waves after the 18th green shot during the final round of the NCAA Women’s College Golf Championship at Greyhawk Golf Club, Monday, May 22, 2023, in Scottsdale, Ariz. Credit: AP/Matt York

Zhang’s win is her eighth in 10 starts, including the Pac-12 Championship and the NCAA Pullman Regional.

Zhang quickly closed a four-shot deficit on overnight leader Park by turning in 3-under 33 on the front nine at Greyhawk’s Raptor Course. Zhang carded a birdie on the par-5 11th to reach 10 under, but López-Ortega tied it with a birdie on the par-3 fifth after starting on the front nine.

Starting on No. 10, López-Ortega offset a bogey on the par-5 11th with a birdie on No. 14 and a two-putt birdie on the par-5 18th. The second player from Madrid tied Zhang at 10-under with a birdie on the par-3 fifth hole, but bogeyed Nos. 7 and 8 before the closing birdie.

Park got better as the season progressed, finishing second at the Silverado Showdown and third at the Pac-12 Championships.

Wake Forest golfer Carolina Lopez-Chakra hits a bunker along the second fairway during the final round of the NCAA College Women’s Golf Championship at Greyhawk Golf Club, Monday, May 22, 2023, in Scottsdale, Ariz. Credit: AP/Matt York

Zhang tied the NCAA record with a 64 in the second round and a 71 on Sunday to take a two-shot lead into the final round over Greyhawk.

In the final individual round, Park carded two birdies around a bogey on the short par-4 sixth, then two-putted birdie on the par-5 seventh. He saved the par when a speeding chip on the par-3 hit the flagstick, but bogeyed on the par-4 ninth.

Park pushed her lead back to two with a curling putt on the par-4 12th, but a three-putt on a steep slope on the par-4 15th caused Zhang to make a birdie on the 11th, leaving her behind .

Park hit a fine chip shot from just below the 18th hole, but pushed the birdie putt to the right.