Friday JM Eagle LA Championship Notes: Rose Zhang, Aces Wild, Alison Lee

Friday JM Eagle LA Championship Notes: Rose Zhang, Aces Wild, Alison Lee

This Rose continues to blossom


Twenty-year-old Rose Zhang, playing on the tougher side of the draw (late/early) at the JM Eagle LA Championship on Thursday-Friday, went out early Friday and shot 2-under 69 in the morning to keep inching her way into contention. Zhang is at 4-under 138 heading to the weekend.


For Zhang, who turned professional last summer after two years of playing at Stanford, this still is her first go-around at many of the venues she has seen so far on her schedule, and she continues to learn them as quickly as she can. She did have some familiarity with Wilshire Country Club; she played there in a Monday qualifier when she was 16.


It was a great opportunity for me to just see what an LPGA golf course is looking like, and how it's set up,” Zhang said after her round on Friday.


“I just remember this golf course being very challenging, especially if a slight wind picks up, so I'm very satisfied with how I was able to maneuver myself around the greens, keep myself composed. Hopefully with a little bit more prep work, the weekend will look good as well.”


Aces (again) are wild


It’s two days, three aces at the JM Eagle LA Championship presented by Plastpro, as LPGA sophomore Alexa Pano and LPGA rookie Auston Kim got into the fun on Friday at Wilshire Country Club.


Pano, 19, a first-time winner on the LPGA in 2023, aced the 176-yard 12th hole during her second round, using a 6-iron. Her hole-in-one marked the fifth ace of the LPGA season, coming a day after Jeongeun Lee5 aced the 135-yard closing hole. Soon Kim, 23, would add a sixth.


A former standout at Vanderbilt, Kim made her ace at the short ninth, where her tee shot pitched just short of the green, tracked up the hill, trickled slightly left-to-right and vanished into the cup. The ace propelled Kim from 4-under to 6-under with nine holes to play, lifting her to within four shots of leader Grace Kim at the time.


Kim had a standout season on the Epson Tour a year ago, with 10 top-10 finishes and a victory in the year-end Epson Tour Championship. She finished third in earnings to earn her LPGA card.


For Pano, it was her first hole-in-one as a member of the LPGA. Of course, aces turn into donations on the LPGA as part of the CME Group Cares Challenge – Score 1 for St. Jude. Friday’s aces elevated 2024 donations to St. Jude Research Hospital past $100,000 in the fight against childhood cancer and life-threatening diseases.


The CME Group Cares Challenge has guaranteed a minimum $500,000 donation this season.


Homegrown Lee makes a move


Alison Lee has been one of the LPGA’s most consistent performers over the last six months, so it was surprising when she put herself in position to miss back-to-back cuts. But that’s what her opening 74 did, leaving her in a tie for 99th to start the day on Friday, one week after she had missed the cut at Chevron.


But Lee, 29, one of three UCLA Bruins in the field this week, bounced back nicely, shooting 3-under 68 to earn her way into the weekend. Starting on the 10th hole early Friday, Lee made five birdies and no bogeys in her opening 12 holes. The ride in from there was a little rocky, with three bogeys late on her second nine, but her 68 proved to be one of the day’s better rounds at Wilshire.


While at UCLA, Lee and her Bruins teammates got to play and practice at Wilshire on Wednesdays, which was always a treat. She attended elementary shool just a block from the club and has a grandmother who still lives nearby, so the last thing Lee wanted was to have the weekend off with friends and family poised to watch her play.


“I have a lot of good memories here,” Lee said. “It’s awesome. This is one of my favorite places.”


Lee, who is coming off her strongest season (19th in season earnings) and seeking her first LPGA victory after three runner-up finishes a year ago, traded her clubs for a headset in the afternoon to work as a walking reporter for Golf Channel's second-round coverage. 


Her goals for 2024 include qualifying for the Olympics in Paris, making her second Solheim Cup team ... and winning, of course.

April 26, 2024
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