Rose Zhang initially thought tennis would be her calling. That all changed five years ago when she swung a golf club for the first time. Having spent her youth dabbling in other sports like swimming, basketball, soccer, and badminton, she was no stranger to teamwork, but the dedicated 14-year-old from Irvine, California wanted to take wins into her own hands. Just a month and a half into taking lessons, Rose had begun entering tournaments. Now, with a Girls Junior PGA and ANA Junior Inspiration championship under her belt (which landed her an LPGA debut), she’s racked up more golf-related accolades than many aspiring professional golfers could ever dream of. Rose shares with Teen Vogueher epic celebratory ritual, the right way to pick a coach, and why it’s actually a good thing to be nervous the night before a game.
Teen Vogue: What’s your favorite aspect of golf?
Rose Zhang: Having the ability to play as an individual. I’m the one that controls what I do good or bad in the game, and that’s a pretty important responsibility for me. I also get to travel a lot and I have a lot of friends from all of the different competitions that I see every weekend. It’s great to have the ability to build relationships and visit some amazing host golf courses.
TV: How did it feel to win the prestigious ANA Junior Inspiration?
RZ: I never thought it would happen. To be able to accomplish that and make the the cut in my first Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) tournament was amazing. I always watched the ANA Inspiration on TV. It was an awesome experience for me and inspired me to continue to grow in the sport.
TV: What was it like to compete against the top female golfers in the world?
RZ: At first it was just a little intimidating because I’ve always seen them playing their advanced game professionally on TV. I never thought I’d have the chance to experience that and get to play alongside them. It helped impact my game and helped push me to play the best I can. It made me see how their dedication and inspiration has brought them to play at such a high level.
TV: How do you perfect your favorite moves?
RZ: My swing tempo and keeping it as smooth as possible are things I’ve been really working on lately. There’s not really anything specific, but when I hit a bad shot I tend to get quick with my hands or hips so I try to work hard to keep everything in sync. I’ve been working on club path and swing direction as well as my club face [aiming the ball towards the right of the target]. Juggling the golf ball and hitting it—it’s really hard to do. You really have to practice it a lot. I like doing it, but don’t do it very much, which means I’m not great at it.
TV: What kind of attitude does it take to be a successful golfer?
RZ: I feel like adopting patience and willingness to work hard and having an overall enjoyment will bring your mental game further. Everyone gets nerves, including the best players in the world. Using your nerves to help you play your best would help impact your game more. I always tend to get a little stiff on the first tee, but after the first hole I get into my game more and loosen up on the course. I don’t think of the consequences of what would happen if I play badly, since I feel like people get nervous about how they’re going to perform. I just stay in the moment.
TV: What do you do the night before or morning of a tournament?
RZ: Before I go to bed, I relax a little. Before I sleep I listen to an audio recording of the Bible. It helps me calm down to prepare for the next day. In the morning, I just try to prepare myself normally. I’ll eat breakfast, hit some balls and have a regular practice routine before the round.
TV: How do you decompress?
RZ: If I have time, I talk to some friends after a round. I like watching YouTube videos and Chinese variety shows. I just surf the web to find whatever is interesting and keeps me entertained. It relaxes me and makes me happier. And I typically do some homework. I like to practice and play some fun golf on my home course with friends to help me relax. It’s more practicing with them and playing some putting competitions to keep things fun for us.
TV: How do you celebrate big wins?
RZ: I don’t really celebrate as a whole. After the ANA Junior Inspiration I ate dinner and laughed with some friends. After I won the ANA Junior Inspiration, having the chance to jump into Poppie’s Pond was amazing. It’s tradition for the winning player to do it. When they asked me if I wanted to jump in, it was a definite “yes.” Not every player gets to jump in and it was a really special moment for me. I didn’t really jump well, but it was amazing. Having more chances to jump into Poppie’s Pond would be amazing, but I’m not looking that far into the future yet.
TV: Which female golfers do you look up to?
RZ: I look up to Sung-Hyung Park and her overall game on the course. Her demeanor and the way she positions herself to play well and her extremely solid game is entertaining for me to watch.
During the Junior Solheim Cup, I met Angel Yin and got to play with her, which was pretty cool. People like Lexi Thompson, Inbee Park, Shanshan Feng are also golfers I really admire and who inspire me to become the best golfer I can.
TV: What are your plans for the future?
RZ: It would be a big dream of mine to play on the LPGA Tour eventually, but I’d first think about getting into college and playing college golf. I just want to further develop my game and through collegiate golf it would help with my independence as a whole.
Rose Zhang cruises to Girls Junior PGA win after avoiding late penalty
Final leaderboard • • • ST. ALBANS, Mo. – Rose Zhang had seized control of the Girls Junior PGA Championship during a third-round 66, but it appeared her grip on the lead might be slipping in Frida…
TV: What advice do you have for Teen Vogue readers looking to take up professional golfing?
RZ: I would recommend golf to young kids who are looking to start playing a sport because every sport is extremely difficult and golf stresses both mental and physical game, but doesn’t stress as much physical as other sports like swimming or basketball. Starting to play and get some light exercise in would get people to love the game. First, find a coach you are comfortable with and stick with that coach. Having consistency with your coach as you grow will help improve your game. Golf is something that can change completely every day. Stay patient and enjoy the game as much as you can.