As the Yale women’s golf team reaches its final stretch of competition ahead of the Ivy League Championship, the team is in contention for the title thanks in part to the dominance of Jennifer Peng ’18, who will be called upon when Yale attempts to dethrone defending champion Harvard at Ivies on April 21 to 23.
Peng has been one of Yale’s strongest golfers since her freshman year and continues to add to her resume, which includes last season’s performance at the Ivy Championship where she finished as the top overall player. The Highland Park, New Jersey native has only improved since then, claiming the title of the lowest-scoring golfer in the Ancient Eight this season.
[Peng] has really matured over the years,” head coach Chawwadee Rompothong ’00 said. “She’s been playing a long time and has always done well. She is a lot more efficient with her practice time now. She’s definitely a very smart player and handles her emotions really well on the golf course.”
The junior — who started golfing when she was seven and named Jordan Spieth as her favorite golfer — has been a standout performer for Yale since she first stepped onto the course in 2014. As a freshman, she was the Ivy League Rookie of the Year, with her best result a second-place finish at the Lady Paladin Invitational. She continued her strong play in her sophomore season leading up to Ivies. According to the Ivy League standings, she finished the 2015–16 campaign as the fourth-best golfer individually with an average round score of 76.18.
The then-sophomore put a stamp on her season at the Ivy League Championship, which took place at the Stanwich Club in Greenwich. While the Elis finished third as a team behind Princeton and Harvard, the weekend was not without its victories: Peng finished as the top overall performer after shooting six above par, and her first-round 72 was the lowest score tallied all weekend. Teammates Julie Luo ’19, captain Sandy Wongwaiwate ’17 and Elisabeth Bernabe ’17 joined her in the top 20 individually at Greenwich.
“I don’t think my mindset has changed much [from last season],” Peng said. “I’m still focused on improving as a player and focusing on my own game rather than outside factors I can’t control. I think I’ve matured as a player and know myself better both on and off the course. This has helped me be more consistent.”
With two strong seasons under her belt, Peng has dominated the field thus far in 2016–17. She is the lowest scoring player in the Ivy League this season with an average of 72.85. She also holds claim to the lowest individual round tallied this season — a 66, her personal best.
Peng has been consistent all season, stretching back to the fall. In late September, she finished fourth at the Nittany Lion Invitational, before tying for second-place at the Princeton Invitational the following week. Her +4 helped the Elis finish third out of 12 teams at Princeton.
Yet her top performance this season was later in October on her home course in the Yale Women’s Intercollegiate. The junior’s –6, including her astounding second-round 66, was good for a first-place tie with Tara Liebert of Cincinnati.
In the spring, Peng has so far notched a tie for fourth-place at the Southern Utah Invitational and led Yale this past weekend with a +13 at the Harvard Invitational. Peng and her teammates will seek to build on this momentum ahead of the Ivy League Championship later this month.
While Peng has been phenomenal, Yale’s deep lineup will be key to its success down the stretch. Bernabe, Wongwaiwate, Felicia Chang ’20 and Jayshree Sarathy ’18 join Peng in the top 30 lowest scoring-averages this season. The Bulldogs currently rank fourth in the Ivy League in terms of average score per game, trailing Princeton, Columbia and Harvard.
“When we are out on the course, everyone is by themselves and playing her own game,” Wongwaiwate said. “But at the end of the day, our scores count together as one team. I think the team spirit and camaraderie this year have been exceptional, and I think going forward and nearing Ivies, those two things would be key to helping us perform well.”
Yale will return to the fairway next Monday and Tuesday for the Hoya Invitational hosted by Georgetown.