Angela Zhang drained a 25-foot downhill putt for birdie on the second playoff hole to qualify for this year’s historic U.S. Women’s Open at Pebble Beach Golf Links. It will be an especially memorable week for 14-year-old Zhang, who will be competing in her first professional event.
“I’m just super excited to be able to play Pebble Beach and compete in one, if not the highest, the best women’s professional golf tournament in the world,” said Zhang, “and just to be able to play alongside all the LPGA players I‘ve looked up to is going to be such an amazing experience.”
Stars she’d most like to meet: Nelly Korda and Lydia Ko.
This marked the third attempt at U.S. Women’s Open qualifying for Zhang, who turned 14 on May 5. She shot 70-73 in the 36-hole qualifier to play her way into a four-for-two playoff. Only two players from the field at Shannopin Country Club in Pittsburgh advanced. Former USC player Amelia Garvey birdied the first playoff hole to nab the first spot.
Meet Angela Zhang, 14, who qualified for @uswomensopen at Pebble Beach by draining a 25-foot birdie putt on the second playoff hole in Pittsburgh. She’s also the youngest player to ever win the Washington State Women’s Am (at age 13).
Angela Zhang pic.twitter.com/Msm8cFZrsE
— Beth Ann Nichols (@GolfweekNichols) May 10, 2023
The 78th U.S. Women’s Open will be held July 6-9 at Pebble Beach, host to six U.S. Opens. This will be the first time a women’s major is contested there.
Morgan Pressel first qualified for the U.S. Women’s Open at age 12 and nearly won the championship as an amateur in 2005, taking a share of second at Cherry Hills. She’ll be the lead analyst for NBC’s coverage of Pebble Beach and had this advice for young players in the field: “I would sign up for practice rounds with all of the people you looked up to and wanted to play with if those spots are available. … Don’t be afraid to introduce yourself or go say hi in a locker room.”
Qualifying for a major was only the start to Zhang’s week. She flies back to her home state of Washington Wednesday afternoon to prepare for the U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball at The Home Course in DuPont, Washington. Zhang won both the Washington State Women’s Amateur and Junior titles last year at age 13.
Her partner at the Four-Ball is Alice Ziyi Zhao, who also happens to be 14. There are 18 players in the Four-Ball field between the ages of 12 and 15.
Zhang and Zhao met five years ago at the IMG Academy Junior World Golf Championships. Zhao was co-medalist last year in stroke-play qualifying at the U.S. Women’s Amateur at Chambers Bay – at age 13.
Although Zhang is in the eighth grade, she’s taking freshman-level core courses that are part of an advanced curriculum in Bellevue, Washington. Zhang was introduced to the game by her father, Kevin, an IT professional who fell in love with golf in his mid-30s in his native China. Angela was born in Opelika, Alabama, but lived in China until it was time to go to school. In 2014, the Zhangs moved to the U.S. to give their children more opportunities.
Zhang won seven Washington Junior Golf Association titles last season and four tournaments on the AJGA. She’s won so much in the course of her young career that she’s lost count of her titles.
“I haven’t really kept track,” she said, “but I’d say maybe like 50 or 60 or so? Or maybe more. I don’t even know.”
Kevin said he knew from the start that his daughter had a gift – particularly her natural touch on and around the greens.
Zhang’s first time playing in front of television cameras came early at age 9 when she dominated the Girls 7-9 division at the Drive, Chip and Putt National Finals at Augusta National. At age 9, the 4-foort-10 inch Zhang hit her drive 189 yards, 33 yards past her nearest competitor. She finished first in driving and chipping and took second in putting.
Zhang had the same mindset at Augusta National that she carries into every high-stakes moment.
“I remind myself that it’s just golf,” she said. “I play so much golf every day, just trust that I know what I’m doing.”