Rose Zhang wins 2023 Augusta National Women’s Amateur

A U.S. Women’s Amateur championship. An individual NCAA title. Too many other tournament wins to count. Ranked the world’s No. 1 women’s amateur since late in 2020.

What amateur golf worlds remained for Rose Zhang to conquer?

The Augusta National Women’s Amateur loomed as the missing piece from her collection of achievements, and the 19-year-old Californian, a sophomore at Stanford, earned that title on the second hole of a playoff Saturday at Augusta National Golf Club.

But she struggled to earn the championship.

Leading by five shots after two record-breaking rounds at Champions Retreat, she fought a balky putter throughout the final round at Augusta National. She finished with a 4-over-par 76, still enough to make the playoff with University of Georgia golfer Jenny Bae.

Zhang double-bogeyed the first hole in the rain-delayed final round and her advantage slowly slipped away.

Zhang still led by two strokes after the 14th hole, but her bogey at the par-5 15th chopped her advantage to one — while Bae birdied the 17th to pull even.

The ANWA, in its fourth year, featured 44 of the top 50 players in the world rankings.

Jensen Castle finish

Jensen Castle birdied her final hole in the second round Friday to make the 36-player cut and finished tied for 26th overall after her 5-over-par 77 over Augusta National on Saturday. She posted a three-day total of 223, seven over par.

The other players with South Carolina connections — Hannah Darling and Anna Morgan — missed the cut.

Castle is from West Columbia and plays for the University of Kentucky. She opened with a 2-under-par 70 before a second-round 76 left her at 2-over 146. She is playing after aggravating a rib injury that kept her from competing in last week’s tournament at Clemson.

A double-bogey at No. 13 and a bogey at 16 put her in a must-make situation on the final hole.

“I was like, not ideal,” she told reporters after the second round. “It was straight-down grain. I putted it about four feet and knew it was in immediately.”

Darling, a sophomore at the University of South Carolina from Scotland, faced a similar situation and missed her putt, a 15-footer for birdie on the par-5 18th, at Champions Retreat.

Darling posted round of 73-74—147 and finished in a tie for 32nd. She had a birdie the 16th to get under the cut line, but she bogeyed the 17th.

Morgan, from Spartanburg and a senior at Furman, shot rounds of 77-74—151. She faced an uphill climb after going 4-over par after six holes in the first round before playing the final 30 holes in 3-over par.

All three earned spots in the ANWA for the second-straight year.