No. 1 Rose Zhang chose college golf, something no junior player of her caliber has done in decades

Rose Zhang is the best junior girl to head to college in decades – possibly ever.

No. 1 Rose Zhang chose college golf, something no junior player of her caliber has done in decades

Rose Zhang begins her competitive career at Stanford on Monday at The Molly Collegiate Invitational in Seaside, California.

Zhang enters college golf with a game so complete, that no one would’ve been a bit surprised to see her win an LPGA event as a teenager, much like Lexi Thompson, Brooke Henderson, Paula Creamer, Lydia Ko or Morgan Pressel. There’s still time for that, of course, as she’s only 18.

While all of those players went straight from high school to the professional ranks, Zhang is the best junior girl to head to college in decades – possibly ever.

In July, Zhang became the eighth player to capture the U.S. Girls’ Junior and U.S. Women’s Amateur, but the first to win the Women’s Am title first. A two-time AJGA Player of the Year (2020, 2019), Zhang has commanded the No. 1 ranking for more than a year and twice earned the McCormack Medal as the world’s leading amateur.

Tiger Woods, Maverick McNealy and Patrick Rodgers hold the record at Stanford with 11 career victories. Andrea Lee holds the women’s record with nine.

Zhang could topple that record, if Rachel Heck doesn’t beat her to it first. Heck won six times last spring in one semester of golf.

So far, Zhang is off to a memorable start in Palo Alto, winning the team’s first multi-round qualifier by 10 strokes. The effort was highlighted by her first hole-in-one on the par-3 17th at Stanford Golf Course with a 5-iron from 170 yards. Teammates Heck, last year’s NCAA individual champion, and Aline Krauter were witnesses and documented the moment.

Even with Zhang on campus, the Cardinal won’t start the season in full strength. Heck isn’t in the lineup at The Molly because she’s under the weather, and Angelina Ye is still back in China wrapping up the Chinese National Games.

Zhang told reporters at the Augusta National Women’s Amateur last spring that college would help her to mature. Back then, it wasn’t clear if Zhang would actually make it to college. She kept saying she was going ­– but would she really?

“She feels she has a lot more to learn,” explained Zhang’s longtime instructor George Pinnell.

The last time a marquee player like Zhang showed up to college was the late 90’s when Grace Park and Beth Bauer, who won 18 (Park) and 17 (Bauer) AJGA titles and were both two-time AJGA Players of the Year, went to Arizona State and Duke, respectively. Park holds the all-time record of career AJGA victories along with Leigh Anne Hardin and Kellee Booth.

“Rose Zhang would make the LPGA tour today, and she will make it in one, two, three or four years from now,” said Arkansas head coach Shauna Taylor.

“I don’t ever see the rush, as college is a great opportunity to gain something someone can never take away from you: a degree.”

Last week, Taylor’s Arkansas team got their annual up-close look at tour life at the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship. Three current Razorbacks and four former players were in the field in Rogers. For those coming back, the Arkansas stop feels like home on a global tour that’s downright exhausting.

Zhang, who hails from California, came to Stanford with friends already on the team, and this week begins the quest toward helping the Cardinal claim a second national team title. She recently led Team USA to a strong comeback at the Curtis Cup in Wales, going 4-0-1.

One of the most remarkable moments of the 2021 Ryder Cup was Rory McIlroy’s emotional television interview after his Sunday singles victory. McIlroy, a four-time major winner, called his six Ryder Cup appearances the greatest experiences of his career.

“I have never really cried or got emotional over what I’ve done as an individual,” said McIlroy. “I couldn’t give a s—. But this team, and what it feels like to be a part of, to see Sergio (Garcia) break records, to see Jon Rahm come into his own this week, to see one of my best friends, Shane Lowry, make his Ryder Cup debut. … I just can’t wait to get another shot at this.”

The ever-classy McIlroy was quick to apologize to NBC viewers for swearing. The moment got to him.

There’s something special about being a part of something that’s bigger than yourself. Rose Zhang wants a piece of that, and everything else that college life entails.

2021 Curtis Cup

The USA Team celebrates after winning the 2021 Curtis Cup at Conwy Golf Club in North Wales, United Kingdom on Saturday, Aug. 28, 2021. (Oisin Keniry/USGA)

Michelle Wie West puts getting a degree from Stanford on the same level as winning the U.S. Women’s Open. Both were childhood dreams that she was determined to make happen. Wie West attended Stanford while playing on tour, of course, and called it the best decision she’s ever made.

“The normalcy of just going and living in a dorm and living on campus all four years,” she said, “having friends who didn’t play golf. I think that did so much for my personal growth.”

Zhang believes that will be the case for her, too. Her presence at Stanford sends a message to future world-beaters, and their parents, that extreme success in junior golf doesn’t have to result in a beeline to the tour, which can be a lonely and pressure-packed cauldron.

These are the days that money can’t buy.

Source : Golf Week More   

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Meet the Golfweek's Best course raters: Long-distance runner and passionate golfer Linda Carrier

She ran seven marathons on seven continents in seven days. Linda Carrier now makes time to rate golf courses.

Meet the Golfweek's Best course raters: Long-distance runner and passionate golfer Linda Carrier

In this first in a series of articles featuring profiles of some of the men and women serving as course raters for Golfweek’s Best, Golfweek architectural panelist, author and Auburn professor Jim Hansen chats with Linda Carrier of Pinehurst, North Carolina. 

At 56 years old and a Type 1 diabetic with an insulin pump, she recently finished fifth in the grueling World Marathon Challenge, a race of 183 miles involving running an astounding seven marathons in seven days on all seven continents. A retired vice president of infrastructure and operations at a large Blue Cross Blue Shield plan on the West Coast, Carrier has rated 139 courses. 

Golfweek’s Best utilizes more than 800 raters to develop its course rankings.  Rating courses frequently on their own and sometimes at established events at courses around the world, these players share their thoughts on 10 rating categories ranging from memorability of par 3s to the shaping of features built into the ground. They then compile one comprehensive rating on a scale of 1 to 10 points for each course. The diversity of the rater network ensures that Golfweek’s Best course rankings do not become one-dimensional, instead catering to a wide variety of thought and skill level.

Golfweek’s Best course rater Linda Carrier, right, on a tee at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort with fellow rater Sue Hennessy (Courtesy of Linda Carrier)

Jim Hansen: Linda, when and how did you become a rater for Golfweek?

Linda Carrier: I, along with my husband, Eric, became a rater in 2018 after meeting and playing with another rater, David Madison. We had known David for many years, and after we moved from Seattle to North Carolina, we had many more opportunities to play golf with David and his wife, Carol. During these rounds, we would discuss the design of the courses, what we liked and didn’t like and which architects’ courses we tended to like to play more. 

Hansen: Where did you grow up and what were the first courses that you ever played?

Carrier: I grew up in Columbus, Ohio, but never really played growing up. Many times I watched my dad and grandfather load their clubs into the trunk of the car and head out to the golf course, but I never tagged along or played. It was when Eric and I moved to Seattle when I first took up the game. I am a runner and would run with work friends every morning. One of these friends was also a golfer and we’d discuss the game on our runs. One day she told me that our company was having a golf tournament and asked if I’d like to play. I had swung many softball and baseball bats in my day but never a golf club, but I said “sure.” Eric came along, as I was using his clubs, and helped me decide which club to hit. On a par 3, closest-to-the-pin hole, I hit a shot and although it bounced off a tree, it came to rest very close to the pin and I won a small trophy. I was hooked! I played my first golf game at the age of 36.

Hansen: How would you describe your game and skill level?

Carrier: I consider myself an average or bogey golfer. One of the reasons golf is so much fun is each game I try to improve one thing, be it my putting or chipping. The other reason is the social piece: You meet so many great people on a golf course. My one and only strength is the ability to hit very straight drives 90 percent of the time. Eric says I’m a ringer in a 4-“man” scramble!

Hansen: What has been your greatest achievement as a golfer?

Carrier: We travel to Scotland, Ireland and England every year, except during the pandemic. My husband and I really enjoy links golf, the history of the game, the beautiful areas where some of these golf courses are built, and we feel there is no place better than the UK. Some of my greatest achievements include almost acing the ninth hole at Royal Lytham & St. Annes, becoming a Golfweek rater and becoming a member of North Berwick West Links, one of my absolute favorite courses in the world. 

Hansen: Clearly, you are very passionate about playing golf.

Carrier: There are so many reasons one can be passionate about golf, but for me I have just a few. It’s a game that can be played as an individual or as a team. The more games I play, in all areas of the world, designed by different architects, built with varying grasses and approaches to golf course maintenance, makes it so very interesting and challenging. For example, I love links courses, as I’m a big fan of the bump-and-run approach to the greens. The challenges you have with the weather on links courses demands that you change how you play the game. 

Hansen: Even more than with golf, it seems, your heart and soul and sense of self has been in your running. I have read that you took up running to stay healthy, is that right? You have been a Type 1 diabetic since the age of 14.

Carrier: That’s true. I am one that likes to challenge myself and see what I can do.

Hansen: Your career as a long-distance runner is simply astounding.

Carrier: I have completed 66 marathons and 55 half-marathons to date. One of my goals is to run a marathon in all 50 states. I have 29 states done. I have also completed the World Marathon “Majors,” where you must run Boston, Chicago, New York, London, Berlin and Tokyo marathons. Completing the Majors is difficult, as you need to qualify – run fast! – and/or be picked in a lottery. I completed them in 2015. 

Hansen: As incredible as all that is, your tackling the World Marathon Challenge, not just once but twice, once in 2019 and the other in 2020, blows my mind. How could you manage that?

Carrier: This is a race where you run seven marathons on seven continents in seven days. In 2019 we started in Antarctica then ran in Cape Town, South Africa, followed by Perth, Australia, on to Dubai in the UAE, Madrid, Spain, Santiago, Chile and finishing in Miami. In 2020 the weather was so bad in Antarctica, we had to start in Cape Town, then go to Antarctica and on to Perth and so on. Instead of Santiago, Chile, we ran in Fortaleza, Brazil, and again finished in Miami. Santiago was having some unrest and the race organizer felt it was unsafe to run here. 

Hansen: How do you get from one continent to another so fast that you can run again the very next day?

Carrier: In a nutshell, you board a charter plane and as soon as you land, you run the marathon. As soon as the last person finishes, you head back onto the plane and fly to the next continent. We ate, slept and stretched on the plane. There was about 36 of us crazy runners doing this event. No question but it is very difficult just to run back-to-back marathons, but then add to it crossing multiple time zones and running in extreme heat and extreme cold. 

Golfweek’s Best course rater Linda Carrier pauses next to a ghost tree at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort’s new Sheep Ranch. (Courtesy of Linda Carrier)

Hansen: Playing golf for three or four straight days at a Golfweek event has to be a piece of cake for you. For many of the rest of us, we have a hard enough time physically and emotionally accomplishing that.

Carrier: Being a rater has been a blessing. I’ve been one since 2018 and have so far rated 139 courses. I typically travel and play golf with my husband and often with another rater couple. What I find very valuable is that, as a woman, I see things a little differently. I’m an average female golfer, and I’ve played some courses where there were many holes that had some very long carries. I don’t mind one or two, but if you have 50 percent where most women would not be able to clear the rough, it doesn’t make for a fun day. 

I also see how some courses do not put a lot of time or thought into the women playing their course. Tee boxes are difficult to find or are not mowed, or tee markers are pointing into the trees, or the tree management was neglected from the forward tees. Also, as a woman, I am not a long-ball hitter so my landing zones are different than the men. 

Hansen: I often ask raters to identify their weaknesses as raters. What might be some of your own weaknesses?

Carrier: One of my weaknesses is not fully understanding the big picture of designing a course, maintaining it, keeping costs manageable and being able to adjust the course to the changing clientele over time. On a side note, I have recently just taken a part-time job working at the Country Club of North Carolina as a golf course “maintenance technician.” I want to better understand what it takes to keep a golf course well maintained and beautiful.

Source : Golf Week More   

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