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JERSEY CITY, NJ — Rose Chang has lived up to all the pre-tournament hype as the next great women’s golfer — at least in her first week as a pro.
The two-time NCAA champion became the first player in 72 years to win on the LPGA Tour in her pro debut, taking the Mizuho Americas Open into par in the second playoff hole against Jennifer Kupcho on Sunday.
Zhang arrived on the LPGA Tour with the most fanfare since Michelle Wie West in 2005, and delivered in the shadow of the Big Apple.
“I just can’t believe it,” Zhang said. “It was just last week when I won the NCAAs with my teammates, and to turn professional and come out here has been amazing. I’ve enjoyed the journey.”
The period was actually 13 days.
The last woman to win as a professional on her debut was Beverly Hanson, who edged out Babe Zaharias to take the Eastern Open in 1951.
The performance was so impressive that it caught the eye of fellow Stanford producer Tiger Wood.
“An incredible few weeks for Rose Zhang, defending her NCAA title and then winning her Pro. Go Card debut!” Woods tweeted.
Zhang smiled broadly when told, adding that she hadn’t had a chance to look at her phone since the tournament ended.
“My reaction says it all,” said Chang, who said she did not look at the scoreboard until the 16th hole and did not know her position in the field.
It really never changed. You started out on top and you never lost it.
South Korean rookie Hae-ran Ryu (70) finished third with 8 under. Aditi Ashok of India, Ayaka Furyo of Japan and Eun Hee-ji of South Korea were seven. South Africa’s Ashley Bohai, Ireland’s Leona Maguire and Japan’s Yuka Saso finished 6-minus, three shots behind the leaders.
Zhang hit two over 74 in the final round and missed a chance to win in regulation when she missed her 8-foot putt after making at least half a dozen clutch saves in a valiant performance in the final round.
The 20-year-old from Stanford made nearly the same from 8-foot 18 at Liberty National in his first playoff game. Copshaw, who won the NCAA title at Wake Forest in 2018 and made a final round 69, hits par.
Both players hit the fairway on the 18th par on the second playoff hole, but Zhang hit the par 10-foot par. Kupcho was short on her approach, and her first putt went directly over the back edge of the green and missed her second putt. That left Zhang with two strokes to win.
Although disappointed with the loss, Kupcho was pleased with her performance.
“I’m always the best on this turf,” said Copshaw. “We’re starting to hit that kind of turf going forward, so I’m excited to see where the season goes.”
Zhang raised her face in disbelief after the winning putt fell as the players celebrated with her by awarding her red roses, similar to when she won the Augusta National Women’s Amateur.
Zhang, playing on a shepherd’s exemption, had no birdie in her final round and finished on 9-under 279.
Zhang turned pro last week after the NCAAs and a lot was expected right away. She was the top-ranked women’s amateur for 141 weeks and won every major women’s amateur event—the U.S. Women’s Amateur, the U.S. Girls’ Junior, the NCAAs, and the Augusta National Women’s Amateur.
Valued at $412,500, the victory also earned Zhang and automatic membership on the LPGA Tour, which she accepted — though she’ll be skipping next week’s event near Atlantic City, New Jersey.
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