Los Angeles Gateway City Qualifier earns LPGA major exemption
RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. – Rose Zhang of Irvine, California, earned an exemption into the LPGA’s first major of the year, the ANA Inspiration, by winning the American Junior Golf Association’s ANA Junior Inspiration at Mission Hills Country Club. Zhang celebrated by jumping into Poppie’s Pond with 1996 ANA Inspiration champion Patty Sheehan who she competed with during the final round.
Zhang posted a tournament total of 7-under-par 209 to edge out second-round leader Ashley Menne of Surprise, Arizona, for her first AJGA Invitational win. The 14-year-old was one of 11 players who qualified for the ANA Junior Inspiration as a representative of one of All Nippon Airways’ North American Gateway Cities. As a Gateway City Qualifier, Zhang donated a $5,000 Gateway City Grant from ANA to the Southern California Golf Association’s junior golf program. In the past two years, ANA has donated $110,000 to state and local golf associations through the Gateway City Grant program.
“Winning the ANA Junior Inspiration as my first AJGA Invitational means the world to me,” said Zhang. “To win on the same course as the LPGA pros is surreal. Playing with Patty Sheehan today was amazing. We had the opportunity to play with an LPGA Legend and she was extremely supportive, played great golf and kept everyone calm. As an amateur, it’s beyond my dreams to play in an LPGA major.”
Zhang earned her victory in dramatic fashion, birdying No. 18 of the Dinah Shore Tournament Course to seal her victory. At No. 8 in the Rolex AJGA Rankings, Zhang won the 2017 Junior PGA Championship. The 14-year-old was also the 2017 recipient of an Achieving Competitive Excellence (ACE) Grant for financial assistance from the AJGA on behalf of ANA.
At the end of two special days of top-class golf, Mr. Hideki Kunugi, Senior Vice President of the Americas, ANA, added: “As the title sponsor of the ANA Inspiration and the Official Airline of the LPGA our vision for expanding the ANA Junior Inspiration came from a desire to create the most exciting tournament in junior golf with a once-in-a-lifetime prize. This weekend that vision is reality thanks to the world-class performances of our juniors and the support of the AJGA. Congratulations to Rose Zhang for her play and for the spirit in which she played the game. She is a great role model for fellow junior golfers. I hope this is just the start of her inspired journey and this experience adds more air under her wings to help her career take-off.”
Menne took second, her best AJGA Invitational finish, at 6-under-par 210. Three-time Rolex Junior All-American Yujeong Son of (South Korea) Norman, Oklahoma, finished third with a 54-hole total of 5-under-par 211. Amari Avery of Riverside, California, posted a 4-under-par 212 to finish fourth. Rachel Heck of Memphis, Tennessee, the AJGA’s reigning Rolex Junior Player of the Year, rounded out the top five at 1-under-par 215.
During the final round, juniors were paired with LPGA Legends. Each pairing group featured one Legend and two juniors. Juniors competed for the stroke-play title and participated in a fun competition among groups in a best-ball format with the Legends. Liselotte Neumann, 1988 U.S. Women’s Open champion, Kynadie Adams of Gallatin, Tennessee, and Hailey Borja of Lake Forest, California, took home the best-ball prize at 10-under-par 62.
The ANA Junior Inspiration, organized in partnership between the AJGA and ANA, annually challenges 48 AJGA invitation-only golfers for 54 holes of golf. The ANA Junior Inspiration is celebrating its second year on the AJGA schedule. Prior to its association with the AJGA, the ANA Junior Inspiration operated as an 18-hole qualifier for Southern California-based juniors to earn a spot into the major championship field.
About the ANA Inspiration
The ANA Inspiration is golf’s first major and one of the LPGA Tour’s most prestigious events. Previously known as the Kraft Nabisco Championship, the tournament was founded in 1972 by David Foster and Dinah Shore and earned the designation as a major championship in 1983. Contested at Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage, Calif., since its inception, the ANA Inspiration holds the distinction of being the second oldest golf tournament continuously held at the same course. For many, the event is most distinguished by one of golf’s most beloved traditions: the champion’s leap into Poppie’s Pond, located adjacent to the 18th green. In 1988, the first champion’s leap into Poppie’s Pond was taken by Amy Alcott, and since has become one of the most anticipated and memorable traditions in golf. For more information on the ANA Inspiration, please visit ANAinspiration.com or call 760-834-8872. On social media, visit facebook.com/ANAinspiration, twitter.com/ANAinspiration or instagram.com/ANAinspiration.