Rose Zhang opens sizable 54-hole lead amidst stunning low scores at Girls Junior PGA

Montana Pritchard/PGA of America

Rose Zhang opens sizable 54-hole lead amidst stunning low scores at Girls Junior PGA

Junior

Rose Zhang opens sizable 54-hole lead amidst stunning low scores at Girls Junior PGA

ST. ALBANS, Mo. – Tournament scoring records are falling – or at least being matched – every day at the Country Club of St. Albans, and it’s not totally clear why.

For the third straight day at the Girls Junior PGA Championship, humidity made the temperatures feel over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. That stifling heat is certainly no picnic.

And while birdie opportunities can be found around these grounds, this layout isn’t one competitors consider a cinch.

“I don’t think the course is easy,” said Sadie Englemann, after shooting a 4-under 68.

But the red numbers aren’t slowing down.

Rose Zhang followed up a second-round 65 with a third-day 66, moving from a share of the lead with Yealimi Noh and Hailee Cooper to a four-shot cushion over Noh (third-round 70) heading into Friday’s final round.

This is the 14-year-old’s debut in this event, and yet she sits at 16-under 200 – a new tournament 54-hole record, besting Kristen Gillman’s 202 total at this stage in 2014. Zhang also tied the tournament record for low third-round score thanks to that 66. The day before, Zhang’s 65 matched the lowest second-round score in tournament history (set by Vicki Goetze-Ackerman in 1990). On Tuesday, Cooper (T-7, 9 under) tied the lowest single-round score at the Girls Junior PGA with an 8-under 64.

Amidst all those records, Zhang has pushed through to put herself in a commanding position ahead of Friday.

“I’ve never played so well in any other tournament,” Zhang said.

Her competitors would probably agree. Englemann, who sits solo 14th at 6 under, said she lost focus for about four holes in the middle of the round.

Why? It was tough to stay on point when she could see the scores rising into the teens, red numbers she could hardly believe were getting so low on this layout.

“It’s kind of depressing looking at these scoreboards,” Englemann said. “Just seeing I’m 6 under for the tournament and I’m not even top 10.”

Zhang could take it really deep Friday. On top of playing the best golf of her competitive career, Zhang is a quickly emerging talent.

The Irvine, Calif., product currently ranks No. 1 in the Class of 2021 and has found herself competing strongly in elite fields of late – making it to the quarterfinals at the Polo Golf Junior Classic in November and posting a tie for third last month at the AJGA’s KPMG Stacy Lewis Junior All-Star Invitational.

She earned a Wyndham Cup spot this summer, as well.

Is a Girls Junior PGA crown now in her immediate future?

Four-shot leads can evaporate, and the contingent behind waiting to pounce includes defending champion Lucy Li (T-4, 10 under).

But Zhang isn’t feeling the nerves. Yet.

“I’m going to try to keep myself calm and hit every shot as I need to,” Zhang said. “Overall, I feel OK.”

If she’s still feeling comfortable on No. 1 tee Friday morning, more scoring records could fall.

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