Stanford Golf Star Rose Zhang Is Ready for Her Professional Debut

Not long before Rose Zhang clutched a microphone on Tuesday, Michelle Wie West laughingly made an observation: Zhang might have logged more weeks as the world’s No. 1 amateur women’s golfer than Wie West spent as an amateur, period.

It was an exaggeration — even though Wie West became a professional at 15 years old and Zhang spent more than 140 weeks in the top spot — but it also wryly underscored how Zhang’s rise in women’s golf is playing out differently from how other ascending stars built their careers.

In Zhang, who will make her professional debut this week at the Americas Open in Jersey City, N.J., women’s golf is getting the rare prodigy who has played for an American college. And Zhang’s career, however long it lasts and whatever victories it yields, is essentially certain to become a case study in athletic development, long-range planning and skillful marketing, especially now that college athletes are allowed to make money in ways that were forbidden as recently as two years ago.

“I believe that if you’re not able to conquer one stage, then you won’t be able to go on to the next one and say it’s time for the next step,” Zhang, 20, said on Tuesday. “So I wanted to see how I fared in college golf, and it turned out well.”

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