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U.S. Girls' Junior

Rose Zhang ties Girls' Junior mark with 62, but the challenges of match play await

July 13, 2021

Rose Zhang hits her tee shot on the fifth hole during the first round of the 76th U.S. Women's Open.

Ezra Shaw

Rose Zhang just turned 18 years old in May, and since the U.S. Girls’ Junior Amateur allows participants to be up to 19 years old before the start of the tournament, Zhang is very much eligible to compete. It just seems a bit silly to think of Zhang as a “junior” at this point, and so far, this week’s championship hardly seems like a fair fight.

On Tuesday, Zhang—the reigning U.S. Women’s Amateur champion and top-ranked amateur in the world—birdied four straight holes in the middle of her round, shot 30 on her second nine, and finished with a card of eight-under-par 62 at Columbia Country Club in Chevy Chase, Md. The score ties the Girls’ Junior record held by three others—Christina Kim (2001), Kimberly Kim (2007) and Lucy Li (2018).

Combined with her opening 69, Zhang finished the stroke-play portion of the championship at nine under to earn medalist honors and the No. 1 seed for the match play that begins on Wednesday. Xin Kou, who shot 66-68, finished three strokes back. The top 64 players advanced to match play and Zhang will face No 64-seed Lauryn Nguyen, of Seattle.

Of course, match play becomes a very different discipline to tackle, and Zhang should beware of how her predecessors at 62 have fared—none of the three ended up reaching the 36-hole final. In fact, the last medalist to win the title was Ariya Jutanugarn at Olympia Fields in 2011.

With the Women’s Am trophy already on her mantle, Zhang, who will begin her college career at Stanford in the fall, has a chance to become only the eighth player to capture the Girls’ Junior and Am.

Zhang, born and raised in Southern California, has notched an incomparable record of late. She notched a T-11 in a 2020 LPGA major, the ANA Inspiration, and won the Ping Invitational, the Rolex Girls Junior and the Rolex Tournament of Champions. In April. She also tied for third in the Augusta National Women’s Amateur. Zhang was, however, coming off a disappointing effort, by her standards, in the U.S. Women's Open, where she shot 77-80 at Olympic Club to miss the cut.