Just three months removed from a dominant NCAA Championship run, No. 1 Stanford women’s golf made its fall debut in the Carmel Cup at Pebble Beach Golf Links this weekend. Behind a historic performance from sophomore Rose Zhang, who earned her fifth career individual title on Sunday, the Cardinal won the event by 13 strokes over No. 9 Texas A&M.
The Carmel Cup was a new event on the schedule for Stanford this season. Despite the small tournament field, the strength of the competition — including No. 12 Oklahoma State, No. 17 Arkansas and No. 24 Mississippi State — provided a formidable early-season test for the Cardinal.
Stanford’s six-player lineup for the tournament featured several familiar faces from last year’s title team with sophomores Caroline Sturdza and Zhang, juniors Sadie Englemann and Rachel Heck and senior Brooke Seay returning. Rounding out the Cardinal lineup was true freshman Megha Ganne, who made her first career start.
Before she hit a single collegiate shot, Ganne had already received recognition as one of the top players in the country, being named to the preseason watch list for the Annika Award. In Friday’s opening round, she demonstrated that the praise was deserved, firing a three-under-par 69.
The reigning Annika Award winner, Zhang, picked up where she left off last season by posting a four-under-par 68 on day one. Englemann registered a 70, while Sturdza and Heck shot 75 and 76, respectively, to complete the Cardinal’s first round scoring. Through 18 holes, Stanford shared the tournament lead with the Aggies at two-under-par.
In the second round, Stanford gained separation from the pack, recording the best score in the field by eight strokes. Ganne made six birdies en route to her second consecutive round of 69. Englemann and Heck posted matching 73s, while Seay and Sturdza tied with 77s. But the round of the day — and of the early college golf season — came from Zhang.
The No. 1-ranked amateur in the world opened her second round with a par at the first hole. Then, she caught fire.
Over the next six holes, she went six-under-par, notching four birdies and an eagle. Zhang stayed hot throughout the back nine, making birdies at the 11th and 16th holes to reach eight-under-par for her round. Heading into Pebble Beach’s famous 18th hole, she needed a birdie to break the women’s competitive course record.
And that’s exactly what she did. A birdie four gave Zhang a nine-under-par, bogey-free 63.
With the Stanford women’s golf team’s unprecedented success in the past two seasons, it is sometimes easy to lose sight of record-breaking performances. Zhang’s second round, the lowest women’s score in competition at Pebble Beach in over 100 years, is one the golfing world will not soon forget.
With 18 holes to play entering Sunday, both Stanford and Zhang held commanding leads. The Cardinal stood nine shots ahead of Texas A&M, while Zhang led the Aggies’ Jennie Park by six.
To close out the win, Stanford posted a five-under-par 355 for the second straight day. Englemann, Heck and Seay all posted 71 on Sunday to secure the victory, while Zhang put the finishing touches on her fifth career individual win with an even-par 72.
Five strokes behind Zhang, Ganne finished second overall in the tournament. She led Sunday’s charge with her third consecutive under-par round in her debut to put the college golf scene on notice.
Stanford will have over three weeks of rest before it tees off in the Big Match on Sept. 29. The Cardinal will team up with the men’s team then to take on Bay Area rival Cal at Menlo Country Club.