Victory laps usually only happen in motorsports, but how else to describe the announced final round of Stanford Rose Zhang’s freshman year in the NCAA Division 1 Women’s Individual Championship on Monday at Grayhawk Golf Course in Scottsdale , Arizona.?

If ever a victory entered the realm of fate, it was Zhang’s, when she carried a seven-stroke lead into the final round, birdied the second hole to increase her lead to nine, and though she didn’t play her best golf the rest of Along the Way, shooting a three-for-75, she still won by three over San Jose State’s second Natasha Andrea Oon.

“It was really, really difficult,” Zhang said. “I saw every inch of the golf course that I hadn’t seen the first three days. But just being here now, knowing that I passed my C game, I’m just grateful to be here.

Zhang became the second straight freshman at Stanford to win the national championship, following teammate Rachel Heck’s victory a year ago. Heck tied for 31st.

It was more than Zhang’s fourth-lap lead that made victory inevitable. It’s that combined with an impressive amateur record that preceded the NCAA championships. The victory was the cornerstone of a dominant first season for Zhang, who will now lead her Stanford teammates to the NCAA Tag Team Championship starting Tuesday at Grayhawk GC. Stanford, the top seed, will be joined in the match-up competition by Oregon, Texas A&M, UCLA, Auburn, San Jose State, Georgia and Florida State.

Already No. 1 in the world amateur golf rankings, Zhang has added an NCAA championship to a resume that also includes wins in the US Women’s Amateur in 2020, a US Girls Junior title in 2021, three previous victories at Stanford, in her first three colleges. starts, followed by a victory in the International Amateur Sprint. She finished in the top 10 of her 10 college starts.

She finished second in the Pacific 12 Championship and the Stanford Regional, played in Augusta’s last two National Women’s Amateur Championships and will be a member of the US Curtis Cup team next month in matches with Great Britain and England. Ireland at the Merion Golf Club. .

Add it all up and she was an overwhelming favorite to win the NCAA individual title, which she did with rounds of 68, 70, 69 and 75, a total of 72 six-under par 282 holes.

“It was really a little frustrating not having hit where I wanted to on a few areas of the golf course,” she said, the day before her 19th birthday. “But I was just able to stay cool and calm and collected and able to complete the round and try to make all the putts I could. It was just a rough grind, but I’m here now.