Did you manage to catch any of the action from the LPGA Mizuho Americas Open last weekend? It was incredible to watch the amazing talent of 20-year-old Rose Zhang. To think that she only turned professional a week prior to this tournament and she went on to win it on the second playoff hole against fellow American Jennifer Kupcho after the pair had finished on nine under par.
Perhaps this dream start to Zhang’s professional career is surprising that it came so soon, but unsurprising given that she is arguably the best women’s amateur golfer in history, having won back-to-back NCAA titles, making the cut in all three majors she played in last year and ranked No1 in the World Amateur Golf Rankings for a record 141 consecutive weeks. What a player! In fact, the Stanford University student referred to NCAA (college golf) after her win, saying “It was just last week when I won NCAAs with my teammates. To turn pro and come out here, it's just been amazing." Zhang is the first player since 1951 to win on the LPGA Tour in a professional debut and I’d bet money on this being the first of many accolades to her name.
The good news is that after her winning press conference, Zhang said, "You guys will see me more on the LPGA Tour, as I am taking membership from now on, and I'll be playing in 2023," and that means we’ll get the chance to watch her and the world’s other leading female players at this year’s AIG Women’s Open at Walton Heath Golf Club from 10-13 August.
Now, I don’t know if you have had the opportunity to play Walton Heath, but let me tell you … last week I attended the media day for the fifth and final women’s major of the year and became very good friends with someone called Heather!! On some holes I struggled to carry the thick stuff off the tee and as the format was greensomes, there was a lot of apologising going on! Of course, pros will have a greater ability to avoid the rough, but combined with very deep bunkers reminiscent of those found on a links course and large greens, I’m looking forward to seeing who best takes on the challenge of this highly-rated heathland course.
It was interesting to hear from The R&A representatives about what we can expect from this year’s tournament. Planning for a different spectator experience has been in the making for the last few years, but unfortunately, best-laid plans were thwarted by Covid until now. Based on research and gaining a greater understanding of what people want from an event like this, as well as trying to attract a new audience to golf, we can expect a festival-like atmosphere with various entertainment, so it will be a great day out for the whole family with exceptional golf to watch thrown into the mix. To have chart-topping Ellie Goulding performing live on Saturday evening is a real coup – who would have thought that? It’s a great move to modernise this golfing experience and I’m looking forward to it, especially as a drink or two will wipe away all those bad memories of hacking out of Walton Heath's heather!