LPGA Tour winner Rose Zhang zipped up the leaderboard on Thursday at the CPKC Women’s Open, carding a sporty 3-under 69 to kick off her week in Vancouver, British Columbia. Starting on No. 10, the 20-year-old was sluggish early, making five consecutive pars and a bogey on the par-5 15th to sit at 1-over through six holes. She erased that mistake with a birdie on the next to turn in 36 and then caught fire on the front nine, grabbing birdies on holes 2, 5 and 6 to finish at 3-under and sit a few back of the lead. Her 69 ties her second-lowest first-round score and is her first round in the 60s since Sunday at The Amundi Evian Championship. This week marks Zhang’s first time competing in Canada and the 2023 LPGA Tour rookie had to make some adjustments early in order to post an under-par round on day one at Shaughnessy Golf and Country Club.
“I'm feeling really good. From the start, I had some errant tee shots, and it's something that you can't really afford on this golf course since it's so narrow. I was able to have some lucky bounces, lucky outs, and I capitalized on that,” said Zhang, who hit 8 of 14 fairways and 12 of 18 greens. “Really glad how the day went. Just keep it going the next couple of days. It started clicking on the back nine I would say. I was able to get some drives in the fairway. I was able to hit my approach shots somewhat close, within birdie range, and being able to capitalize on that while having some lag putts, everything went pretty smoothly.”
While it might feel like Zhang is already a tried-and-true, battle-tested veteran out on the LPGA Tour, this week marks just her seventh start of the 2023 season and only her sixth since becoming a Rolex First-Time Winner and earning LPGA Tour Membership at the Mizuho Americas Open in early June. In addition to that victory in New Jersey, she has earned three other top-10 finishes, tying for eighth at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship and tying for ninth at both the U.S. Women’s Open and The Amundi Evian Championship.
Those strong major performances have been enough to vault her to No. 31 in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings and currently give her a spot on the United States Solheim Cup team, which wraps up its Qualifying Period following this week’s CPKC Women’s Open and will finalize the 2023 squad on Monday, August 28. Though earning her place on the U.S. team this early in her young career would be another feather in the American superstar’s cap, Zhang is trying to just stay focused on the current challenge in front of her, namely navigating her way around Shaughnessy Golf and Country Club in search of another solid performance.
“I've been really lucky to have the experience of playing two Junior Solheim Cups, and we were victorious in both of them. I've been able to represent my country in that format, and to be able to do so as a professional would simply mean the world,” said Zhang on Wednesday. “Even though it's not something that I think about on the daily, it's definitely a goal to have, especially since it's right in front of me. And especially playing for Stacy. I was able to play for her at the Spirit International as she was my captain, so it would mean a little something extra special.”