The last time we spoke to Rose Zhang at Irvine in April 2020, she limited herself to hitting golf balls in her garage, which was idle due to the COVID-19 lockdown. “I have a small area in my garage,” she said then. “I just hit balls and then putt. There is not much you can do. ”
Later that year, her left wrist began to bother her, with tendinitis that initially turned out to be an entrapment of the wrist.
It could have had an effect last December in Houston when 18-year-old Zhang missed the cut in her second appearance at the US Women’s Open as an amateur. (She finished 55th on her first attempt in 2019.) Otherwise, she persisted for the last five months of 2020 and thrived by winning the US Women’s Amateur and three junior events and at the rescheduled ANA Inspiration last year September 11th in Mission Hills.
She is the top ranked amateur in the world and one of 30 amateurs who will compete in the US Women’s Open 2021 at the Olympic Club in San Francisco on Thursday. She is also rested and has a healthy wrist, which is good if she hits the bull’s eye this weekend. A number of seasoned professionals including Michelle Wie West, Minjee Lee, Inbee Park and Paula Creamer have assessed the thickness of the rough at Olympic during the pre-tournament press conferences. If you have wrist issues, you don’t want to get rid of this stuff.
As West, who had surgery on her right hand and wrist in 2018, remarked, “Does it worry me? Yes. But I’ve done a lot of strokes out of the rough in the past few days and I’m pretty confident. ”Park called the rough“ really thick and long, ”adding,“ It’s almost an automatic bogey when you go into the rough. ”Creamer, who also had a history of wrist injuries said, “I’m not going to lie, I didn’t sit down and hit 100 balls out of the rough to see what I can do. I’ve probably hit 10, 15 shots in the past few days. If it gets in there, I won’t try to be a hero. ”
In other words, it’s a pretty typical USGA setup.
And when Zhang was asked at her pre-tournament media briefing on Wednesday what her main concern was … well, you can imagine.
“It’s definitely very tough for everyone,” she said, probably unintentionally. “It has grown a lot. … It’s easy for me to stay on the fairways like everyone else, and the greens are so small that it’s just a real challenge. ”
Zhang has completed her senior year at Pacific Academy in Irvine and will travel to Stanford after signing her letter of intent with the cardinal last November.
“I think it’s a bit difficult to organize your time, especially at school, and I’m just coming to this event pretty exhausted from graduation,” she said on Wednesday. “It was my birthday last week, my 18th birthday, which was pretty funny.
“But I think my overall health is pretty good. My wrist is definitely a lot better and I just tried to take it slow and just get back on. ”
She took part in three pro events in 2021, finishing second in a Symetra Tour event in Arizona in March and 33rd in the LPGA Lotte Championship in Hawaii in April.
Between those pro events, she was just a shot away from a playoff on the last day of the Augusta National Women’s Amateur the week leading up to the Masters, finishing third after hooking a triple-bogey 8 on the 13th, “what a drive.” lost ball led – and then just missed a 12-foot birdie putt on 18.
When asked later if she remembered doing a triple bogey before, she said, “I can’t be honest,” and then burst out laughing. If you’re not used to failure and something like this happens, sometimes you just have to roll with it.
Many of the amateurs entered the Olympics this week are college players. Another who isn’t yet is 17-year-old Amari Avery of Riverside, a home-schooled high school junior and the 2019 California amateur champion who signed up to USC but is also enrolling in LPGA Q-School Has. Avery, who starred in a Netflix documentary about junior golf when she was 8, is in her first major.
By comparison, Zhang is an old hand as this is her fifth major (three US Women’s Opens and two appearances at Mission Hills in 2018 and ’20). And since an amateur won the US Women’s Open once – in 1967 the French Catherine LaCoste – Zhang was asked if this had occurred to her.
“I think everyone dreams of winning a major, winning the US Open,” she said. “For me, the process is more important. On this course, and in any difficult place, you definitely need to stay in the moment. Before you think about it, it’s just important to stick to your schedule, and that’s exactly what I’m planning. ”
After all, there should be plenty of opportunities.
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Rose Zhang of Irvine plays her shot from the 17th tee during the 2021 Augusta National Women’s Amateur finals on April 3 in Augusta, Georgia. Zhang is the top ranked amateur golfer in the world and one of 30 amateurs to serve at the US Women’s Open 2021 at the Olympic Club in San Francisco on Thursday. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton / Getty Images)