Stanford women’s golf began its fall season on Monday, competing in the Molly Collegiate Invitational at Bayonet Golf Course. Despite missing two top players, Stanford won the tournament with a 14-over-par total for three rounds. Freshman Rose Zhang shot a final-round 68 to win in her collegiate debut.
With all its major talent returning, plus the addition of two highly regarded freshmen, Stanford came into the season with sky-high expectations. In the Golfweek preseason poll, and in nearly every other ranking, the Cardinal were slated at No. 1 in the nation.
However, Stanford’s starting lineup for the Molly was missing sophomore Rachel Heck and junior Angelina Ye — the two lowest-scoring golfers from last season. Replacing Heck and Ye, the freshman duo of Zhang and Caroline Sturdza made their first collegiate starts.
In the opening round of the Molly, the Cardinal started slowly, shooting 13-over-par as a team. Zhang made one birdie and two bogeys in her round of 73. Sophomore Sadie Englemann shot 75, Sturdza shot 76 and senior Aline Krauter shot 77, as the Cardinal finished eight strokes behind co-leaders San Jose State and UCLA.
In the second round, Stanford improved by six shots but remained in third place behind San Jose State and UCLA. Zhang made just one bogey and posted an even-par 72. Her one-over-par total on Monday left her in a tie for third place individually.
Sturdza led the team with four birdies as she rolled to a second round 73. Krauter and Englemann shot 74 and 76, respectively, to round out the Cardinal’s day one scoring.
While Stanford did not play to its full potential during Monday’s 36 holes, it remained within five shots of San Jose State and UCLA. In team golf, a five-shot-lead can be eliminated in a matter of holes, as volatile teams trade birdies and bogeys.
On the front nine of the final round, Stanford did not make many bogeys — Zhang, Sturdza and Krauter all got off to hot starts, and the Cardinal quickly closed in on San Jose State and UCLA.
Sturdza birdied the second, fifth, seventh and ninth holes en route to a four-under-par 32. Krauter birdied her first two holes and did not make a bogey during her opening nine. Zhang made four birdies to go against one bogey, as she ascended to the top of the individual leaderboard.
By the time Stanford made the turn to the back nine, its five-shot-deficit had turned into a one-shot-lead. The Cardinal never looked back.
Nine holes later, Sturdza put the finishing touches on a masterful five-under-par 67. Sturdza’s 67 was the lowest round of the Molly and took her into a tie for second place. The only golfer Sturdza could not beat was fellow freshman Zhang.
In Zhang’s first event at the collegiate level, she played nearly mistake-free golf. She led the field in bogey avoidance, only recording four holes over par for the tournament. In the end, her three-under-par total gave her a three-stroke victory over Sturdza and San Jose State senior Natasha Andrea Oon.
By winning in her first start, Zhang joined an impressive list of Cardinal golfers. Heck in 2021 and Andrea Lee in 2016 were the most recent to win in their debuts, while Ye won in her second start in 2019.
Zhang and Stanford women’s golf will look to carry their momentum from the Molly to their next tournament, the Windy City Collegiate Classic, which begins Oct. 4.