Jennifer Peng hangs on to win the SCGA Women's Mid-Amateur
Jennifer Peng (SGCA Photo)
Jennifer Peng (SGCA Photo)

As a first-time SCGA Women’s Mid-Amateur competitor, Jennifer Peng outlasted a past champion and multiple-time Player of the Year to win her first Mid-Amateur title.

Peng is not new to the Mid-Amateur circuit, having set multiple scoring records and garnering medalist honors twice in three appearances at the U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur. But she had never been able to raise a trophy until Wednesday at Santa Ana CC.

“I was super excited to play,” said Peng. “It was definitely a super competitive field, so it was a really good test for my game…I was really just trying to focus on myself like I know what I'm able to do and really focus in on that and to be able to get it done means a lot.”

Peng is currently ranked No. 527 in the Golfweek/ Women's Rankings.

With an opening-round 4-over 77, Peng positioned herself a few strokes off the lead, held by 2022 champion Natalie Mu and reigning back-to-back Senior Women’s Player of the Year Shelly Haywood. A 10-over 83 from Peng in the second round marked the third-best score amongst the field on Tuesday, while Haywood and Mu logged 12-over 85 and 14-over 87, respectively. It would eventually come down to those three as the final round progressed on Wednesday.

Peng and Haywood were tied at the top to start the day, with Mu chasing by a pair of strokes. Peng kept steady with mostly pars early on. As did Haywood, until she carded a double-bogey on the sixth hole. Mu similarly shot two over through eight holes on the front.

Meanwhile, Peng took advantage of a scoring opportunity on the par-5 8th hole and reached the green in two to set up an eagle putt. Though Peng settled for birdie, she did break away from Haywood and Mu to establish herself as the solo leader.

Another birdie on ten extended her lead before she capitalized on the ensuing par-5 11th, this time sinking her eagle putt to open a five-shot lead. From there, Peng put herself in cruise control, eventually besting the field by four strokes.

“The front nine is definitely the harder nine, so I was like, play steady, you know, get myself set up for the back nine where I knew I would have chances to get some birdies, maybe some eagles, and really score on the back nine,” said Peng. “I think that was really it.”

Peng, a former Ivy League Player of the Year while playing collegiate golf at Yale, has made waves since transitioning to the Mid-Amateur scene three years ago. In 2021, her first U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur appearance, she set the lowest 18-hole and 36-hole scores in championship history.

She followed that up with her second consecutive stroke play medalist performance in 2022.

“Playing in Mid-Am stuff has been really fun,” said Peng. “The competition is still super fierce, but there's not really that pressure of like, oh, I do this for a living. Everyone playing here has a different life outside of golf. That's been super interesting, like learning about people's lives and like how they're still involved in golf.”

This is a welcomed change of pace from Peng’s previous competitive background. After graduating from Yale in 2018 a two-time First-Team All-Ivy League recipient, she launched her career and took a break from golf, not playing for nearly two years.

“And then COVID hit and I moved back to San Diego where I grew up. Kind of like everyone during COVID, there's nothing else to do so I should start playing golf again. And I kind of really fell in love with golf again, with competing.”

This revelation inspired her to return to the competitive golf scene and connect with more women like her.

“People who play in the Mid-Am tournaments, we're playing because we truly love the game,” Peng said. “Everyone is competitive but also really rooting for each other. I might have a bad day but I still have so much fun out there, which I think is the biggest difference from college golf.”

Peng continues to balance her career while working in time for golf, even if it’s only couple holes after work.

“The time we have to dedicate to golf is different…Last year [at the U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur] I played against someone who was pregnant, and I was like that's awesome. It's really inspiring, and I think it not only inspires me but other women who've played the game in the past to pick it back up and try it again and fall in love with it again.”

Added Peng, “I've met a lot of new friends, close friends. I think one of the best parts of the experience is just getting to meet and play with new people.”

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ABOUT THE SCGA Women's Mid-Amateur

The SCGA Women's Mid-Amateur Championship is open to female amateur golfers with a USGA Handicap Index of 9.4 and below at the time of registration. The Championship is contested over two days and participants compete in individual stroke play conducted over 36 holes.

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