ORLANDO, FLORIDA | Rose Zhang is talking about slowing down, but there is nothing about her life these days that would seem to qualify as “pumping the brakes.” You remember being a college student, no? Late nights, big weekends, lots of pizza? Goofing off, getting lost on the phone and sleeping until noon?
To say Rose Zhang, all of 20, is living her life at a snail’s pace would be like saying Richard Petty used to drive slowly. Zhang’s life as she begins her first full season on the LPGA and third full “season” as a full-time student at Stanford moves with the pace of a plastic wrapper in a tornado.
It’s busy. It’s crazy. All that is thrown at Rose Zhang, and all that she handles, is downright impressive. Staggering, really. She just sails along, moving on down life’s sidewalk as if she were floating in some dream. In many ways, she is.
Where to start? Well, school might be a good place. She is probably halfway home to a degree, needing 180 credit hours to complete her studies at Stanford. (At this point in the interview, this writer had to lean in closely and doublecheck the number with Zhang. One-eight-zero, she clarified. To which I thought to myself, Wow, I’d probably still be in school.)
Stanford University isn’t exactly one of those institutions that one finds on the inside cover of a matchbook. It is the real deal, Ivy-like, hold your Harvards and Yales, with all those higher-learning bells and whistles. Zhang recently completed a third move in a short window: from her parents’ home in Irvine, California, to Las Vegas to start a fledgling pro golf career, and now back to Palo Alto, near campus. To be a Stanford student again.
She takes classes in person, on campus, and is carrying a full load of four courses this semester. She was up until 12:30 the other night working on finishing an assignment for her statistics class, closed the computer, and was on the tee in a matter of hours to make a 7:30 a.m. shotgun in the Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament of Champions. Being Rose Zhang is not a part-time gig.
“Everyone around me [at Stanford] is doing such crazy things. Some friends are doing startups already. Some people are entering the internship business, and have already gotten into the very top, top companies. So, everyone in their own right is grinding, and it’s a really good environment to do the same.” — Rose Zhang
Oh, did we mention that, at age 20, Zhang already is an LPGA champion? That’s why she is here at Lake Nona this week, competing in a winners-only event despite a condensed schedule of only 14 starts in 2023, post-amateur career, after finishing her spring obligations at Stanford.
In what Zhang calls her “mini-rookie season” she managed to win (Mizuho Americas Open, at Liberty National in New Jersey, in her debut), post four other top 10s, and earn nearly $1.4 million, just on the course. She also made the U.S. Solheim Cup team that tied Europe in Spain.
Not sure how your first job went on that first summer home from college, but Zhang cleared $1 million in earnings after only five starts. What continues to be refreshing is that though the money is nice, Zhang is mostly interested in the path she followed in her outstanding amateur career, which is chasing trophies. That’s what means something to her.
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Here is where Zhang’s degree pursuit at Stanford helps her immensely in her quest to be a success: At Stanford, success is a currency that is everywhere she looks. She does not feel like the proverbial big fish in a small pond, despite her awesome God-given talents to strike a golf ball. She is just another fish in a big sea, as she views it. And that is something that helps her to grow as she continues to be the best she can be.
“Being able to find discipline in my own schedule and myself, I kind of think will help me later on in the season to prep me for whatever is to come,” she said. “At the same time, everyone around me [at Stanford] is doing such crazy things.
“Some friends are doing startups already. Some people are entering the internship business, and have already gotten into the very top, top companies. So, everyone in their own right is grinding, and it’s a really good environment to do the same.”
Which brings us to Zhang’s inner discipline and time management. Bombarded with interview requests while wearing the crown of the LPGA’s NBT (Next Big Thing), she said she will work on saying “no” more often, and try to live her life at a slower setting on the speedometer. It sounds like a great plan – if only she weren’t so busy.
After this week’s event at Lake Nona – where, to impress you more, Zhang shot 69 on Thursday with 14 new Callaway clubs in the bag and added a 71 on Friday to tie for seventh entering the weekend – Zhang is going back to school and lying low until resuming her season in late March, when the LPGA returns from a swing through Asia.
That will give her some time to refresh and get over a niggling neck injury that has bothered her of late. And she can get used to those new clubs, especially a new Odyssey Ai putter she is trying to dial in. She mentioned the other day that she had “lost the putter” inexplicably last summer – but nobody in her audience took that to be literal.
She actually “lost” the putter.
Or, more succinctly, her father did. They were traveling by train to the AIG Women’s British Open in England, her dad removed Rose’s putter from the bag, and then he accidentally left it on the train. It had been Zhang’s gamer for two years, and she holed a lot of putts with it. (It’s probably on eBay in England, she said.) Finding a putter to somehow match the lost gamer proved to be a nightmare journey, but finally she seems to be making some progress.
That’s just it. For someone who talks about lessening the number of things on her plate, there always seems to be something new that arises. Diet, for one. A Californian by birth, Zhang is of Asian and Chinese heritage, but recently learned she no longer can consume soy. “Not great,” she said, smiling.
Zhang is approaching her life like an astute young pro would approach his or her golf game, studying it to identify where she can improve. Exactly what is Rose Zhang, impressive 20-year-old who has everything, seeking?
“Just good balance. Looking for grit, discipline. Really want to work on myself and how I carry myself on and off the golf course,” she said, smiling softly.
“You know, it’s just … I think I became a little stagnant in my growth, and this year it’s more so just every single day, finding some purpose to do stuff and to fulfill all my competitiveness, yeah.”
As she approaches her first full professional season, she appears to have enough to keep her busy. Zhang’s degree, when she obtains it – something she hopes to do in 2026 – will be in communications. You know, in case that golf thing doesn’t work out, we guess.
However, appearances being what they are, Rose Zhang seems to be on a pretty good track with that new profession of hers.
© 2024 Global Golf Post LLC
Top: Rose Zhang is working to find balance as she readies for her first full LPGA season while also working toward her degree at Stanford. Julio Aguilar, Getty Images
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