by Tom Cade, Editor
When the U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball comes to The Home Course in DuPont, Wash. on May 13-17, a couple of young teenagers will be teeing it up, and teaming up, to take on the field in the national championship.
And it is not by accident that Angela Zhang of Bellevue, Wash. and Alice Zhao of Irvine, Calif. will be a team to keep an eye on.
In September 2022, Zhang and Zhao combined to shoot a bogey-free 7-under par 65 in the qualifier to earn medalist honors, and entry into the championship proper. They were three shots clear of the second-place team. They were both 13-years old at the time.
The qualifier was held at The Home Course, site of this year’s championship. Will Zhang and Zhao have a home-field advantage?
“I’ve played a lot of golf at The Home Course,” Zhang says, who turns 14 on May 5, the week before the championship. “A lot of junior tournaments are held there. The flow of the course suits my game, and it’s fairly open, so I can get aggressive.”
Qualifying for the U.S. Women’s Four-Ball capped off a great 2022 season for Zhang. She won seven Washington Junior Golf Association titles, including the WJGA State Championship, and earned more points on the WJGA season-long Player of the Year Points List than anyone else in WJGA history, with many of the points earned early in the season while she was still just 12 years old. Zhang also won three AJGA titles and had four top-10 finishes in other AJGA events.
In June 2022, Zhang won the Washington Women’s Amateur, becoming, at age 13, the youngest ever to win that state championship. In October 2022, she was named the Washington Golf Junior Girls’ Player of the Year, and as part of that ceremony she played Apple Tree Golf Course in Yakima and promptly shot an 8-under 64.
Zhao, Zhang’s partner in the upcoming Four-Ball championship, has proven she also has game. She was a co-medalist (remember, she is only 13-years old as well) at last summer’s U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship, which was held at Chambers Bay in University Place, Wash., just a few miles from The Home Course.
How did the two meet and become golf partners? “I met Alice at a U.S. Kids Golf tournament in 2018,” Zhang says, “and we’ve seen each other several times at other tournaments, and we just became good friends, playing a lot of golf together.”
Zhang is in the eighth grade, and goes to school online for the Bellevue School District, which frees her up to travel to tournaments. In the fall of 2023, she will play for the Bellevue High School golf team.
Her family moved to Seattle when Zhang was five years old. Her father Kevin Zhang is an avid recreational golfer, and started taking Angela and her brother with him to the golf course. “I played my first round of golf when I was seven,” she says. “I remember thinking it was a cool experience, being outdoors, walking the green fairways, being with my Dad.”
Zhang played her first golf tournament in March 2017, the WJGA Western Open. “I shot 61-56 over two days,” she recalls. “Nine holes each day. I was seven years old at the time.”
Soon, two things happened that kick-started her desire to play. At the 2018 U.S. Kids World Championship, she finished second. “I didn’t expect that,” she says. “I realized that I could compete with these other players.” She was eight years old.
Then in 2019, at age nine, she made her way through the qualifying to make it to the Drive, Chip and Putt Finals, held at Augusta National Golf Club. In a dominant performance on a national stage, Zhang won the Girls 7-9 division with a final score of 29, one point shy of a perfect score. Standing 4-feet-10 and weighing 75 pounds at the time, in the driving competition she belted a drive 189 yards through the damp air, 33 yards longer than her nearest competitor.
On June 20-22, Zhang will attempt to defend her title in the Washington Women’s Amateur, to be held at Wing Point Golf and Country Club on Bainbridge Island, Wash.
But first there’s the little matter of competing in the national championship at The Home Course in May.
She’ll be someone to keep an eye on, now and into the future.