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Rose Zhang wins first LPGA Tour event as a pro

The two-time NCAA Champion does something the LPGA Tour hasn’t seen in 72 years: Win her first-ever event as a pro golfer.

Rose Zhang of the United States smiles as she walks up the 18th hole during the final round of the Mizuho Americas Open at Liberty National Golf Club on June 4, 2023 in Jersey City, New Jersey. Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Rose Zhang entered the final round of her first-ever NCAA Tournament event with a two-shot lead on Sunday at the Mizuho Americas Open in Jersey City, New Jersey. And she needed every single stroke as she hung on for a playoff win at Liberty National Golf Club in Jersey City, New Jersey.

Zhang won her second-straight NCAA Championship at Stanford just two weeks ago, and now she backs it up by being the first LPGA player to win their first event as a professional since 1951. She’s also to first to win in her LPGA debut since Hinako Shibuno in 2019.

The 20-year-old entered the event on a sponsor’s invitation, and becomes the fourth player in LPGA history to win via that status. She is now of course a fully exempt player on the LPGA Tour, and picks up $412,500 for her first victory. And now she can keep the money.

As an amateur Zhang won the U.S. Women’s Amateur, the U.S. Girls Junior, the 2023 Augusta National Women’s Amateur, as well as the 2022 and 2023 NCAA Individual Championship. Stanford also won 2022 NCAA team title.

Zhang failed to make a birdie on Sunday, but held on in a playoff with Jennifer Kupcho despite a bogey on her final hole in regulation. Both ladies made par when replaying the 18th hole for the first time, but a brilliant approach by Zhang while playing the same tee and green for the third-straight time forced a mistake on Kupcho’s second shot, who ended up putting off the green and was lucky to save bogey.

The host of the Mizuho Americas Open is Michelle Wie, perhaps the last prodigy seen like this on the LPGA Tour, and like Zhang a Stanford Cardinal. The two embraced on the 18th green following one of the more memorable moments in LPGA history.

The Women’s PGA Championship is June 22-25 at Baltusrol in Springfield, NJ, just a few miles from today’s victory. You can expect the now-hottest golfer in the world of any gender to be one of the favorites.