After exhausting rookie season, Zhang ready for LPGA break, college return

After exhausting rookie season, Zhang ready for LPGA break, college return
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NAPLES, Fla. – Rose Zhang would give herself a solid ‘B’ for her performance in her first season on the LPGA Tour. Why not an ‘A’?

“I could have done a lot better in ways of kind of handling myself on tour and I feel like there is always room for improvements,” the LPGA Tour rookie said about the start to her professional career. “When it’s ‘A’ I feel like everything is just very solid, you know what you’re doing. As of now, I feel like there is still a lot more room to improve on and I think I can do better.”

On the eve of the CME Group Tour Championship, Zhang admits to feeling fatigued, in need of a break, and says the biggest lesson she’s learned in her first six months on the LPGA has been realizing there are times she needs to say ‘no.’

“I feel like energy-wise we’re yearning for a little bit more of just that little break. I just hope to end the year off with the best efforts I can put out on the golf course,” Zhang said Wednesday. “I’m definitely taking a little bit more of a break in the beginning of the year before starting off the rest of the season with plenty of golf tournaments to play.”

The Tour Championship will be one of the last events Zhang plays until the spring. She’s no longer listed in the field at the Grant Thornton Invitational in December and says she plans to return to classes at Stanford in the first quarter of the new year, which begins in January and runs through March. She says she’s loaded up her schedule with 22 units on her slate for the upcoming quarter as she’s trying to play catch up while working towards finishing her undergraduate degree.

“It’ll be a good time for me to be grinding somewhere else apart from the golf course,” Zhang, who left after her sophomore season as a Cardinal, said about returning to school.

It appeared, at first, that Zhang might be immune to having a transitional period to life in the big leagues. She won in her professional debut at the Mizuho Americas Open, only 11 days after winning her second consecutive NCAA individual title. But like so many stars who have made the leap from the collegiate ranks to the LPGA, Zhang has admittedly done her fair share of learning as a rookie. From figuring out how to budget her time to which caddie is the right fit (she’s already made one switch since joining the tour in June) to understanding life inside the ropes, Zhang has faced a variety of challenges.

“All I wanted was to learn what it’s like inside the ropes, learn how to take care of my team, handle my body, navigate kind of the dynamics of both media and golf,” Zhang said about adjusting to tour life. “I just want to kind of have fun, build relationships, and ultimately that’s kind of what I did.”

But life on the road has been quite different from Zhang’s time at Stanford, where she was able to give her full attention to her studies and her golf. Now as an in-demand, highly sought-after athlete, Zhang has sponsor obligations and media requests that take her away from both school and practice. The struggle to find time to focus on her game has been reflected in her results as she has just one top-10 since July.

“You have your responsibilities and obligations for media, sponsor outings, but ultimately you have to learn how to take care of yourself and your own work, your own craft, and that’s to be playing at your best on the golf course,” Zhang said about limiting the distractions from her game.

Once Zhang does make her return to the LPGA Tour in 2024, expect to see less of her as she looks to re-dedicate herself to her game and her schooling. In the new year, Zhang will be working towards not only getting those A’s at Stanford but also towards achieving what she considers an ‘A’ in her second season on the LPGA Tour.

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