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Rose Zhang seeking to follow win in her pro debut with a major at the Women’s PGA Championship

AP – After stunning women’s golf by winning in her first event as professional, Rose Zhang will try to take the next big step when she goes for her first major victory in the Women’s PGA Championship at Baltusrol.

And it’s been just a month in the making for the 20-year-old, who many believed was going to be the next big celebrity in her sport, similar to when Annika Sorenstam and Lorena Ochoa returned in a two-year span ending in 2010.

Zhang has gone from winning her second straight NCAA individual title, to turning professional and then living up to all the hype by winning the Mizuho Americas Open earlier this month. It made her the first LPGA Tour winner in her pro debut in 72 years.

What followed was whirlwind of national television appearances, phone and in-person interviews, endorsement offers and then back to Stanford for a study week and finals, including a tough computer science test, in which all she wanted was to get a passing grade. She passed.

After some rest at home and little work on her game, Zhang returned to work yesterday, when she takes on a field that includes all 11 LPGA Tour winners this year in the second major in women’s golf. While that might intimidate some, not Zhang. Walking up the microphone on Wednesday, there was a wide smile on her face. When the questions followed, she was personable, humble, thoughtful and composed, a breathe of fresh air for any athlete.

“Biggest adjustment, I will say that I haven’t been able to work on my game as much as I was able to before as an amateur,” Zhang said. “There’s a lot more obligations that you have to do as a professional. You have a lot more press interviews, conferences, and it does take a lot out of you and a lot out of your time and energy. Therefore, I haven’t been able to grind like I usually have been.”

Grinding for Zhang was going out on the range and smashing balls around for four hours though she hasn’t done that recently because she was tired after a long college season and then the move into the pro ranks.

This week is more fine tuning for the fourth women’s event in New Jersey in seven weeks.

Rose Zhang. PHOTO: AP
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