Rose Zhang learns why Albert Pujols is ‘The Machine’ at Tournament of Champions

Rose Zhang learns why Albert Pujols is ‘The Machine’ at Tournament of Champions

Rose Zhang currently wears two hats. Some days, she focuses on her coursework at Stanford; on others, she plays professional golf.

She has a busy life but hopes to finish her studies by early spring.

Yet this week, she is solely focused on the Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament of Champions, a celebrity tournament that benefits Orlando-area children.

Consequently, instead of acquiring knowledge in the classroom, Zhang has to learn on the golf course. And on Thursday, she took lessons from her playing partner Albert Pujols, one of the greatest baseball players of all time.

“He’s nicknamed ‘The Machine,’ and I could tell that he’s definitely very in the moment,” Zhang said of Pujols, a future Hall-of-Famer.

“Even if he’s not doing too well, he’s very level-headed.”

Albert Pujols, Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament of Champions

Albert Pujols watches a drive during the first round of the Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament of Champions.
Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images

Being from Irvine, California, Zhang knew all about Pujols and his time with the Los Angeles Angels. She was familiar with his short stint with the Dodgers, too.

But she admitted that she did not have too many conversations with him during Thursday’s opening round.

“I felt like it wasn’t the time and place to pick his brain exactly,” Zhang said.

“But I had some light talk with him, and just from how he carries himself, I learned a lot.”

Pujols has long been a fan favorite. He hit 703 career home runs (4th most in MLB history) and contributed to two World Series titles with the St. Louis Cardinals, carrying himself with dignity and integrity throughout his career. His consistency and longevity have long been admirable, too.

He even knew how to make fun of himself, as illustrated by this iconic ESPN commercial.

‘The Machine’ always made time for young fans in the stands as well.

He has spent nearly two decades advocating for his organization, the Pujols Family Foundation, which helps support individuals with Down Syndrome.

Understandably, watching how Pujols conducted himself Thursday was a thrill for Zhang, who carded a 3-under 69 and sits four shots behind leader Ayaka Furue.

“It was really great to be with Albert. He’s a legend in his game. For me, I was just super inspired, just having a good time,” Zhang said.

“I played well today, with my irons working out really well. I was very consistent. There was one drive that was a little bit off, but overall, I am very satisfied with [where my] game [is at], especially with such a short off-season.”

Jack Milko is a golf staff writer for SB Nation’s Playing Through. Be sure to check out @_PlayingThrough for more golf coverage. You can follow him on Twitter @jack_milko as well.

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