Zhang Ties Record-Low-Round 62 in Stroke-play Qualifying at US Girls’ Junior Amateur
July 14, 2021
Local qualifier Isabella McCauley, of Inver Grove Heights, faces Esther Lee, of Walnut, Calif., is the round of 64 today at 12:21 p.m. (EDT).
By Mike Trostel
Rose Zhang fired an 8-under-par 62 on Tuesday, matching the mark for the lowest round in U.S. Girls’ Junior history. Her 36-hole total of 9-under 131 earned medalist honors by three strokes over Xin (Cindy) Kou, the only other player in red figures after two rounds of stroke play at Columbia Country Club in Chevy Chase, Md.
After opening with a 1-under 69, Zhang started her second round with four consecutive pars. She was comfortably inside the cut line for match play, but was growing frustrated at her missed opportunities, burning the edge on birdie putts inside 12 feet on Nos. 12, 13 and 14 (she started on No. 11).
“It started out as a very regular day,” said Zhang, 18, of Irvine, Calif. “I wasn’t able to convert many putts early, but after I chipped in on 15, I gained some momentum. Then on 16, I made a long par putt and from there I just kept it going.”
Did she ever.
Seeing the ball go in the hole opened the floodgates. She made back-to-back birdies on Nos. 18 and 1, hitting wedges inside 6 feet. She followed with a 7-foot birdie putt on the second, then sank a downhill 15-footer for birdie on the third for her fourth in a row.
She added birdies at the par-5 fifth after hitting the green in two, then nearly recorded the first hole-in-one of her career at the eighth, stuffing her tee shot at the par 3 to tap-in range.
After a par on No. 9, Zhang closed with a flourish at the difficult 10th, which played as the hardest hole during stroke play. She drained a 20-foot birdie putt with more than 6 feet of break, putting an exclamation point on the historic performance.
I had really good course management all day,” said Zhang, who hit 16 of 18 greens.
Every single shot I had, I felt confident with what I had in my hands.”
Kou, the Round 1 leader, followed her 66 with a solid effort on Tuesday. She started her round with 12 consecutive pars, then made three birdies against one bogey over her last six holes for a 2-under 68. Her 6-under 134 left her a half dozen shots clear of third-place finisher, Bailey Davis.
“I’m more of a consistent, boring player,” said Kou, 17, of China. “Not many birdies, not many bogeys. But I’ll need to play more aggressive and create more opportunities in match play.”
Other players advancing include 2019 U.S. Women’s Open competitor Reagan Zibilski (141), 2018 Girls’ Junior runner-up Alexa Pano (146), and the duo of Karen Tsuru (142) and Kiara Romero (143), who combined to make four of the five eagles during stroke play.
The cut for match play came at 11-over 151, with nine competitors playing off for four match-play spots.
The Round of 64 is scheduled to begin on Wednesday at 8 a.m. EDT. The 36-hole championship match is scheduled for Saturday. The semifinals will be broadcast live on Peacock from 3-5 p.m. EDT on Friday and the championship match will be shown live from 1-3 p.m. EDT on Saturday.
Rose Zhang’s 62 matches Christina Kim (2001), Kimberly Kim (2007) and Lucy Li (2018) for the lowest round in Girls’ Junior history.
Zhang had the only bogey-free round of the championship.
Zhang’s father, Henry, followed his daughter in the morning on Tuesday, then caddied for 12-year-old Anna Huang in the afternoon. Huang missed the cut at 16-over 156.
The two players under par in stroke play is the fewest since 2012, when defending champion Ariya Jutanugarn was the lone player in red figures. Jutanugarn lost in the semifinals that year.
In the playoff, all four spots were secured with birdies. Yoko Tai and Chloe Johnson advanced on the first playoff hole, the par-3 16th, while Avery Zweig and Lauren Nguyen punched their tickets on No. 17.
The 11-over-par total is the highest cut for match play since 2013, when the cut was also 11 over.
During stroke play, the 409-yard, par-4 10th hole played as the most difficult at 4.55, while the 536-yard, par-5 fifth played as the easiest at 5.08. No holes played under par.
Clare Connolly, a former golf shop assistant at Columbia C.C., shot a 1-under 69 at nearby Kenwood Golf and Country Club in Bethesda, Md., on Tuesday to qualify for the 121st U.S. Women’s Amateur at Westchester C.C. on Aug. 2-8.
“The grass type is very different from when I played last year at Woodmont. When I came out in the practice round, I chipped a couple and I was chunking everything. But I was able to adjust the last couple of days. One thing that is the same is how humid it is.” – Zhang, comparing this year’s Girls’ Junior at Columbia and the 2020 Women’s Amateur at Woodmont, about 8 miles away
“It could have been a 59, she played that well. I’ll remember every shot of that round for the rest of my life.” – Doug Hurson, Zhang’s caddie and a two-time club champion at Columbia
“It’s a lot tougher carrying the bag… I was trying to convince her to get the No. 63 seed.” – Steven Fox, Kynadie Adams’ caddie and the 2012 U.S. Amateur champion, who won his title after snagging the second-to-last spot in match play in a 17-for-14 playoff at Cherry Hills Country Club outside of Denver. Adams earned the No. 33 seed.
“It was harder this afternoon than yesterday morning. It was hotter. It was windier. I kept putting myself into bad positions, which is not good on this course.” – Kou, on the conditions in Round 2
“It was my first hole of the day. I hit my 5-iron and as I was walking up, I thought it was just on the green, close, but everyone was cheering. It was in the hole, I couldn’t believe it!” – Tsuru, on holing her approach shot for eagle on the par-4 11th in Round 2
“It helped me get my emotions in check. I was much calmer on the first tee than I think I would have been if I hadn’t had that experience.” – Reagan Zibilski, on what she learned from playing in the 2019 U.S. Women’s Open.
Mike Trostel is the executive producer of content for the USGA. Email him at email@example.com.