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Rose Zhang plays practice round at Augusta National with Jennifer Kupcho’s old caddie but opts to keep dad on the bag for final round

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AUGUSTA, Ga. — Rose Zhang had the same caddie on her bag Friday at Augusta National Golf Club who Jennifer Kupcho used in 2019 when she won the inaugural Augusta National Women’s Amateur. Kupcho, of course, made a game-time decision to swap our her dad for Brian McKinley for that historic final round, which proved especially clutch when a migraine impaired her vision at the midway point.

While Zhang, 19, soaked up every word that McKinley told her, not only about the course but Kupcho’s closing 67, she ultimately decided to keep her father, Haibin, on the bag for a second consecutive year. The Stanford sophomore had indicated on Thursday afternoon that she intended to use an Augusta caddie for the final round but changed her mind later that evening.

Zhang had her trainer on the bag in 2021 when the title slipped out of her hands around Amen Corner.

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“Ultimately I feel like what we have is going pretty well thus far,” said Zhang, “and I feel very comfortable with him on the bag. He’s very predictable. We know our games in and out.

“I think especially when you’re at the biggest stage at Augusta, it’s pretty necessary to have that comfort to be able to be yourself and do what you need to do.”

Rose Zhang plays her stroke to the No. 13 green during a practice round for the Augusta National Women’s Amateur at Augusta National Golf Club, Friday, March 31, 2023. (Photo: Augusta National Women’s Amateur)

Zhang’s record start at Champions Retreat included rounds of 66-65 to open up a five-stroke lead over Ole Miss senior Andrea Lignell. With thunderstorms forecasted mid-morning and wind gusts up to 35 mph, officials opted to use a two-tee start for the final round with the final pairing going off at 8:50 a.m. E.T.

Zhang, the No. 1 player in the world for more than 130 weeks, headed to the range after Friday’s practice round, noting she was spraying the ball roughly 30 yards right of her target off the tee – on one hole. Several others headed left. She wanted to find a feeling she could trust before Saturday.

Zhang’s final round sat Augusta National have been less than desirable the past three rounds: 75-75-74.

A record-tying nine-time winner at Stanford, Zhang led by seven going into the final round of the NCAA Championship last spring and said she’d never felt more nervous as it shrunk to three strokes after 10 holes.

Zhang closed with a 75 at Grayhawk Golf Club in Scottsdale, Arizona, but still managed to win by three.

“I’ve kind of learned that it’s essential to always realize that you’re playing the same fields as you were on Day 1,” said Zhang, “so there’s going to be a lot of people trying to climb up, and you have to be prepared for that.”