Rose Zhang fired an eight-under-par 62 on Tuesday, matching the mark for the lowest round in US Girls’ Junior Championship history.
Her 36-hole total of nine-under 131 earned medallist honors by three strokes over Xin (Cindy) Kou, the only other player in red figures after two rounds of stroke play at Columbia Country Club in Chevy Chase, Maryland.
After opening with a one-under 69, Zhang started her second round with four consecutive pars. She was comfortably inside the cut line for match play, but was growing frustrated at her missed opportunities, burning the edge on birdie putts inside 12 feet on Nos. 12, 13 and 14 (she started on No. 11).
“It started out as a very regular day,” said Zhang, 18, of Irvine, California. “I wasn’t able to convert many putts early, but after I chipped in on 15, I gained some momentum. Then on 16, I made a long par putt and from there I just kept it going.”
Did she ever.
Seeing the ball go in the hole opened the floodgates. She made back-to-back birdies on Nos. 18 and 1, hitting wedges inside six feet. She followed with a seven-foot birdie putt on the 2nd, then sank a downhill 15-footer for birdie on the 3rd for her fourth in a row.
She added birdies at the par-5 5th after hitting the green in two, then nearly recorded the first hole-in-one of her career at the 8th, stuffing her tee shot at the par-3 to tap-in range.
“I had really good course management all day. Every single shot I had, I felt confident with what I had in my hands.” – Rose Zhang
After a par on No. 9, Zhang closed with a flourish at the difficult 10th, which played as the hardest hole during stroke play. She drained a 20-foot birdie putt with more than six feet of break, putting an exclamation point on the historic performance.
“I had really good course management all day,” said Zhang, who hit 16 of 18 greens. “Every single shot I had, I felt confident with what I had in my hands.”
Kou, the Round 1 leader, followed her 66 with a solid effort on Tuesday. She started her round with 12 consecutive pars, then made three birdies against one bogey over her last six holes for a two-under 68. Her six-under 134 left her a half dozen shots clear of third-place finisher, Bailey Davis.
“I’m more of a consistent, boring player,” said Kou, 17, of China. “Not many birdies, not many bogeys. But I’ll need to play more aggressive and create more opportunities in match play.”
Other players advancing include 2019 US Women’s Open competitor Reagan Zibilski (141), 2018 Girls’ Junior runner-up Alexa Pano (146), and the duo of Karen Tsuru (142) and Kiara Romero (143), who combined to make four of the five eagles during stroke play.
The cut for match play came at 11-over 151, with nine competitors playing off for four match-play spots.
Top image: USGA/Kathryn Riley.