U.S. Solheim Cup captain Stacy Lewis already talking about Rose Zhang making team
SPRINGFIELD N.J. — There was only one way Rose Zhang could become eligible for September’s Solheim Cup in Spain.
She needed an LPGA win before then, and in her first professional start three weeks ago at the Mizuho Americas Open, the 20-year-old emerged victorious, becoming the first woman to accomplish that feat since Beverly Hanson in 1951.
That caught the U.S. Solheim Cup captain’s eye.
“I’ve texted with Rose a little bit since her win, just needed her to try some clothes on and stuff like that,” Stacy Lewis told GolfChannel.com at KPMG Women’s PGA media day, June 12. “I was letting her get over last week before I started bugging her. Yeah, the (assistant) captains and I already started talking about (Zhang making the team).”
Earlier than expected.
“Rose was more on my radar for 2024,” said Lewis, who will also captain next year’s Solheim Cup squad as the biennial event moves back to an even-year rotation, “because I knew she was going to be turning pro after two years (at Stanford).”
Zhang, who had one of the greatest amateur careers ever, didn’t earn any Solheim Cup points for her maiden LPGA victory, as she wasn’t a tour member yet. However, she now can, having accepted membership following her win.
It helps that Zhang already has a relationship with Lewis. The two-time major champion captained Zhang at the 2021 Spirit International Amateur, in which Zhang helped lead the U.S. to victory while also capturing the individual championship.
That could be of benefit in the former No. 1 amateur in the world receiving a captain’s pick, however, Lewis believes Zhang could automatically qualify for the team in the next three months. The top two players in the Rolex Rankings that don’t make the U.S. squad off points will earn a spot on the team. Zhang is currently No. 61 in the world.
“She’s moving up the Rolex Rankings so fast that I think she could potentially end up sneaking into the Rolex spots and not even need a pick,” Lewis said.
And Zhang’s rapid rise is not a shock to Lewis.
“That’s just how good she is,” Lewis said, “anyone who’s followed college golf knows that’s not a surprise.”
Heading into the thick of major championship season, this time of year can make or break a player’s Solheim Cup hopes.
“Now it’s so important just because it’s so close (to the Solheim Cup), it’s about who’s trending in the right direction,” Lewis said, “but your majors is your best example for, ‘How do they play under pressure?’”
Though the two-time NCAA individual champion burst onto the professional scene in Jersey City, overcoming nerves on Sunday to defeat major champion Jennifer Kupcho on the second playoff hole, there’s still a lot of golf to be played between now and September — and nobody’s made Lewis’ 12-player roster yet.
“There’s a lot of points, there’s a lot of things to play for these next three months,” she said. “So, I just want [Zhang] to know we’re paying attention, but she’s got to go earn her spot just like everybody else.”
Zhang, however, is ready for the task at hand.
“I think this is just the start,” she said after notching the victory at Liberty National. “This is just a stepping stone. It’s crazy that this is my first win, first professional win already, but no doubt there is going to be a lot more things happening down the road.”
Maybe, that includes helping Team USA to its first Solheim Cup win in six years.