The AJGA might have just named the most obvious winner of its player-of-the-year award ever
Rose Zhang became the sixth girl to win the AJGA's Rolex Player of the Year Award in back-to-back seasons.
The 2020 golf season has been a memorable one for Rose Zhang and not simply for the obvious reasons. Sure, the 17-year-old high school senior from Irvine, Calif., can look back with pride at how she and her family managed the COVID-19 pandemic and still excelled on the golf course. But it’s the excelling on the golf course aspect that has been the most remarkable.
Zhang’s season was highlighted by her triumph at the U.S. Women’s Amateur in August, where she defeated 2019 champ Gabriela Ruffels in the finals at Maryland’s Woodmont C.C. It was one of four victories for Zhang in the calendar year, out of six starts in junior, amateur and professional events.
The stellar cumulative play was rewarded on Wednesday when Zhang was named winner of the AJGA Rolex girls' junior player-of-the-year award for a second straight year, joining boys' winner Kelly Chinn of Great Falls, Va., in receiving the association’s top honors for 2020.
At the risk of being accused of recency bias, it’s reasonable to say that Zhang, who plans to play college golf at Stanford, might be the most obvious winner the AJGA has had for the award in the last 25 years, if not ever. (Kellee Booth winning seven titles in 1993 after six victories the year before is another possibility, in a non-COVID environment.) Consider some of the background surrounding this Zhang’s accomplishments this season.
• She ended 2020 where she started, the No. 1 girls golfer in the Rolex AJGA Rankings. She’s held the top spot for 88 straight weeks (and counting).
• She won the Rolex Tournament of Champions, the AJGA’s oldest event, by 11 strokes against a field of 71 other top juniors.
• At the Rolex Girls Junior Championship in August, she made four straight birdies to cap her wire-to-wire victory.
• Prefer come-from-behind victories? She did that at the Ping Invitational earlier this month, shooting a bogey-free five-under 67 in the final round to win her eighth career AJGA title and sixth invitational tournament.
• In the only junior tournament that she played but did not win in 2020, the Annika Invitational, she finished T-3.
Zhang holds the trophy up after winning the 2020 U.S. Women's Amateur.
• She stood out against the best professionals in the world, too, breaking the amateur scoring record at the LPGA’s ANA Inspiration, shooting an eight-under 280 for the week for a T-11 finish.
• Her overall play also lifted her to No. 1 in the World Amateur Golf Rankings, by summer’s end, earning her the Mark McCormack Medal as the top women’s amateur of the year.
In addition to becoming the sixth girl to claim AJGA POY honors in back-to-back seasons (and the first since Ariya Jutanugarn in 2011 and 2012), Zhang also was named a first-team AJGA Rolex All-American for a fourth straight year.
Suffice it to say, Zhang is a more than deserving winner.