Former U.S. Women’s Open champ Michelle Wie West has become a valuable mentor for rising golf star Rose Zhang.
Beyond friendship: Zhang, whose victory on her LPGA Tour debut last month turned her into a breakout star, bonded with West during the tournament, sources close to the two athletes told SF Chronicle.
Since then, West, 33, has reportedly been providing guidance and support to the 20-year-old athlete, helping her navigate the challenges of being in the spotlight.
From dealing with NIL (name, image, and likeness)
issues to deciding whether to turn pro or stay in college, West gave Zhang valuable insights based on her own experiences.
Kevin Hopkins, who served as an agent for both players, pointed out that the mentorship and friendship came naturally as West sees a lot of potential in Zhang. Meanwhile, women’s golf coach Anne Walker noted that West understands the pressure and scrutiny Zhang faces as she experienced them herself as a promising young prospect about a decade ago.
Nothing but love: During her U.S. Open press conference, Zhang called West an “incredible person.”
“This is her last stretch, but I’m really honored to be able to just be a part of it. I’m super excited for what she’s doing to come because she has a lot of big things ahead of her. Not just from golf. That inspires me.”
Common ground: West and Zhang, who are both participating in this week’s U.S. Women’s Open, share some commonalities in addition to their Stanford University background.
Even before she turned professional prior to her 16th birthday in 2005, West was already facing the same levels of attention and expectations that Zhang is facing now. West’s popularity further soared as she won her first major championship in 2014 and several LPGA Tour events.
Meanwhile, Zhang recently gained acclaim for her record-breaking tenure as the world’s top-ranked amateur player and her triumph at the Augusta National Women’s Amateur in April.
Passing of the club: The 2023 U.S. Women’s Open is set to see the two athletes headed in different directions, with West making her final start and Zhang’s first Open as a professional.
“I really look up to her, she’s become this global ambassador for the game,” Zhang told the SF Chronicle.
West, who previously announced that she is stepping away from competitive golf to focus on her family, plans to stay involved in the game and be there for Zhang whenever needed.
“I’m super excited for all the things she’s already accomplished in her few weeks as a pro, and very excited to see what’s in the future for her,” West said.