Jersey City, N.J. - Even Hollywood could not have written a better script. In her first tournament as a pro, Rose Zhang won her first career professional tournament championship at the Mizuho Americas Open at Jersey City's Liberty National Golf Club.
"What is happening? I just can't believe it. It was just last week when I won NCAAs with my teammates, and to turn pro and come out here, it's just been amazing," Zhang said of her win in her professional debut. "I've enjoyed the journey. Gilly (Jason Gilroyed) was on my bag the whole time. I had so many cheers around me. All my friends and family. Just so thankful.
Liberty National was a challenge for all the golfers throughout the weekend, and a cool, brisk wind Sunday did not make conditions any easier. Results varied throughout the field with many golfers finishing above par on Sunday, and Zhang was no exception. Her final round was not as crisp as her first three rounds in Jersey City, but, as any champion does, Zhang made the shots she had to when it mattered the most.
While Zhang had many key pars to stay at the top of the leaderboard, she also recorded two bogies, including one on the 18th, which led to her loosing the two stroke lead she had held coming into the day. Coupled with Zhang's 2-over Sunday, Jennifer Kupcho, who saw relatively consistent scores throughout the tournament, was able to claw her way back into contention and force a playoff.
On the first playoff hole both Zhang and Kupcho missed the fairway right, with Kupcho ending up in the tall grass while Zhang found a fairway bunker. The pair was able to recover fairly well from their predicaments, however, and with a pair of well played chips and putts, both golfers were able to to save par and force a second playoff hole.
Replaying the same hole they played for the first playoff hole, Zhang and Kupcho both learned, and made adjustments, on the second playoff hole. Both golfers found the fairway one their drives, but Zhang was able to place her approach shot close to the pin while Kupcho left hers on the front of the green. With more distance to cover, Kupcho pushed her putt well past the hole eventually leading to a three putt bogie, while Zhang was able to two-putt for par.
With her win, Zhang becomes the first golfer since Beverly Hanson in 1951 to win their professional debut on the LPGA Tour. Also, with her win, Zhang, who was playing at the Mizuho Americas Open as a sponsor invite, became eligible for, and accepted, immediate membership on the LPGA Tour.
In the end, perhaps, like any good Hollywood story, it was meant to be that Zhang's first professional career win ended the way it did. While Zhang may have looked super human during her first three days in Jersey City, what is a good Hollywood story without some trials, and tribulations, for the hero, and champion?
To that effect, Zhang said, "I will say it's good for the story. It's good for the storytelling part of it. I've done this before, especially at ANWA (Augusta National Women's Amateur), so I'm just so thankful. I can't begin to express how amazing this day has been. Being under pressure, having the thrills, the crowds, it's just -- I don't know. I can't explain how great, how well written this whole day could have ended."
Yana Wilson Wins AJGA Tournament
Yana Wilson was crowned the champion on the American Junior Golf Association (AJGA) side of the Mizuho Americas Open. She scored 37 points on the final day of competition to finish her tournament with 147 points in the modified Stableford scoring format. Wilson was closely followed by Anna Davis in second with 144 points, and Sara Im, in third, with 142 points.
"I mean, ever since the tournament kind of announced that it was going to happen I was just super excited to even play in it," Wilson said of her experience at the Mizuho Americas Open. "Now I'm the winner, so it's super cool. And to win alongside whoever is going to win in this is pretty cool."
Basking Ridge, New Jersey native, Katie Li finished the tournament in fourth place with 141 points.
Up Next For The LPGA
The LPGA stays in the Garden State for its next tournament as it heads to Galloway for the ShopRite LPGA Classic from June 9 to 11 at Seaview Golf Club. Tickets for the tournament are available at www.shopritelpgaclassic.com/tickets.
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