By Jason Cruz
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
Welcome to another edition of The Layup Drill. In this issue, we take a look at two golf prodigies named Zhang and three Chinese tennis players do something no pro from China has done since 1937.
Chinese men play French Open for first time since 1937
Three Chinese tennis players played in the first round of the French Open for the first time since 1937. The first match saw Shang Juncheng face Juan Pablo Varillas of Peru. Although Juncheng took a two-set lead, it was Varillas who rallied and came back for the victory to win in five sets.
Wu Yibing played 19th seeded Roberta Bautista Agut of Spain. Agut won the match in straight sets which was disappointing for Yibing, who was the highest-ranked Chinese male in history, having achieved the 55th player in the world by the Association of Tennis Professionals. The 23-year-old also played the Australian Open this year. Last year, he made it to the 3rd round of the U.S. Open.
Zhang Zhizhen became the first Chinese man to make it into the second round when his opponent, Dusan Laovic of Serbia, retired with a stomach virus. Zhang had been leading the match by two sets at the time of Laovic’s retirement. The 26-year-old is the 71st ranked player in the world.
Golf prodigy heading to U.S. Women’s Open
Bellevue, Washington’s Angela Zhang qualified for the U.S. Women’s Open at Pebble Beach Golf Links last month at the age of 14. Zhang won the Washington State Women’s Amateur title and was the Washington State Golf Association Girls’ Junior Player of the Year.
The entrance into the U.S. Women’s Open should come as no surprise. In 2022, Zhang won four American Junior Golf Association tournaments. This year, she tore up the Junior Golf circuits with two tournament wins and a couple finalist finishes.
The 14-year-old has been a golf standout for some time having won the Drive, Chip and Putt Nationals at age 9 in 2019 at Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia.
It will be the teenager’s first pro event after trying two times prior to make the LPGA field. The tournament will be held July 6-9.
20-year-old Stanford golf star turns pro
Although they are not related, another Zhang is making strides in women’s golf. Standout Stanford golfer Rose Zhang decided to forgo her time playing college golf and turn pro. She made her pro debut the first weekend in June in New Jersey at the Mizuho Americas Open.
Zhang’s debut is coming with much fanfare as she is represented by a powerhouse agency that has secured sponsorship deals for her with Callaway Golf Clubs, Delta Airlines, Topgolf, Adidas, and East West Bank. According to Golf.com, the 20-year-old will soon have a deal to wear watches from a luxury brand.
Zhang’s credentials are impressive. She was the world’s top-ranked amateur for 33 months. She won the 2020 U.S. Women’s Amateurs, was the 2021 U.S. Junior Girls’ champion, won the 2023 Augusta National Women’s Amateur Championship, and was the first woman in NCAA history to win individual Division I national championships in consecutive seasons.
With a resume that impressive, it was clear that she was destined to turn professional sooner than later. She will receive a “sponsor’s exemption” on the LPGA this year with the hopes of earning her tour card for 2024.
Although she plans to finish her degree at Stanford, turning professional makes her ineligible to play NCAA golf. However, she said that her time as a college athlete has been important to her. In her sophomore year at Stanford, she believed that she was destined to turn pro.
The Irvine, California native will shoulder a lot of pressure turning pro at 20. With a highly decorated amateur career, the pressure to perform with other elite players will be expected.
Jason can be reached at email@example.com.