Trinity, Texas – Stanford University teammates Rose Zhang and Rachel Heck are the two best amateur golfers in the world and are leading a world-class American women’s team at the Spirit International Golf Championship this week.

It’s a team competition, but many eyes will be on Zhang. The college freshman and reigning US amateur champion won her first three tournaments as a cardinal. That led to comparisons with Tiger Woods, who didn’t even win his first three events at Stanford.

Now, Zhang is attending the three-day event at the Whispering Pines Golf Club in tiny Trinity, Texas, 60 miles northwest of Houston. The event encompasses an international field of men and women from 20 countries and is known as the Amateur Golf Olympics. The US amateur champions James Piot and Sam Bennett from the University of Texas represent the US for the men.

Zhang received the Mark H. McCormack Medal for the second time during the opening ceremony, which is awarded to the No. 1 amateur woman. Her accomplishments, including a T-11 in the LPGA’s ANA Inspiration 2020, have positioned Zhang as the most celebrated American amateur golfer since Michelle Wie. Spirit International U.S. captain Stacy Lewis, who played with Zhang at an LPGA event, said she was a better player than Wie of the same age.

Prior to this week’s contest kicking off, the Irvine, California native took the time to speak with us about the joys and pressures of being Rose Zhang:

Sports Illustrated / Morning Reading: What is it like playing at a team event like Spirit International after playing so well in amateur and college events as a single player?

Rose Zhang: The biggest difference is that you have to play individually in the moment and mainly fight against yourself. As a partner, you both need to create a good mood and get along well on the golf course.

SI / MR: Have you surprised or expected all the successes you have had on the golf course as an amateur, world number one, US women amateur and US girl junior amateur champion?

Zhang: I wouldn’t say I expected it. I was very surprised and blessed. It is very hard to expect to win every time because you never know what will happen. Everyone works equally hard to get to the top, so I am honored and very blessed to do that. When I went to college, I didn’t know what to expect. I am very grateful that I play in tournaments and that I see my name at the top.

SI / MR: Did you expect any comparisons to Tiger Woods when you played college golf at Stanford?

Zhang: I didn’t think of a comparison with Tiger. I am sure there is no one who does not know their name in golf. When I compared my name to his in the same sentence it was like, ‘Wow!’ It’s a really cool moment. I haven’t spoken to him, but I know that Trainer (Ann) Walker wrote my name and his name for him. His answer: ‘She’s a decent player, but is she better than Rachel Heck?’ We made a big kick out of it. ”

SI / MR: Is it fun or is there a lot of pressure to be number 1 in the world and expect so many things from you?

Zhang: For me it’s not exactly pressure. The more people talk about me, the more I think I’m on the right track and will just keep trying to play hard and get better. The pressure that comes on me is more pressure on myself. I want to excel in everything I do. The outside pressure is that I am more aware of myself and my results. You put me on a high pedestal and I ride with you.

SI / MR: Tiger Woods was at Stanford for two years before turning pro. Do you see yourself there for two years?

Zhang: I will definitely continue to go to college for now. I love what I do and where I am. I have no other plans at the moment. I’m still in the first quarter of my freshman semester. We’ll just see how my game develops from then on.

SI / MR: What is it like to be with LPGA veteran and Fuel International captain, Stacy Lewis, who did what you want to do in professional golf?

Zhang: It’s so wonderful to know her as a player and a captain. She is one of the best in the world. So it’s cool to see what she did and what I want to do in golf.