Shanshan Feng Bids A Fond Farewell To Fans Everywhere | LPGA | Ladies Professional Golf Association

Shanshan Feng Bids A Fond Farewell To Fans Everywhere | LPGA | Ladies Professional Golf Association

She made the announcement from home three days before her 32nd birthday. A fit and happy Shanshan Feng had no regrets as she announced that she is officially retiring from professional golf to pursue other opportunities both in and out of the game.

“I really miss the tour life and I miss everybody on the tour – the fans, the media, the players, everybody – but this is the time that I need to move on,” Feng said from her home, surrounded by friends and trophies from her 25 worldwide wins, including 10 victories and one major on the LPGA Tour.

“When I was 18, I qualified for the LPGA and started my (first) full season in 2008,” Feng said. “At that time, I said that I wanted to play 10 years on the LPGA (Tour) and that was it. After that I wanted to do something else. I think I can do something else in my life. I didn’t want to just be a player. That was my plan.

“But the Olympics came (to golf). Even though I won the bronze medal in 2016, I thought that maybe I should give myself another chance for a gold medal. So, I decided to extend my career.”

Feng went on to play for the Chinese Olympic team again in 2021 at the Tokyo Games.

“I thought I would retire two years ago but the Olympics was pushed back,” she said. “Last year, I was so happy that I could actually go to Tokyo and be a part of the Olympic Games. Even though I didn’t get a gold medal, I tried my best. I was 32 already (at the time) and it (wasn’t) the peak of my career.”

Feng was the first Chinese player ever to win a major championship and the first to become World No.1 when she ascended to the top of the Rolex Women’s World Rankings in November 2017. Since then, she has spent a great deal of time in her home country, mentoring and inspiring other Chinese players. 

The results of those efforts are obvious. In March 2022, Xiyu Lin, who has called Feng a big sister and an inspiration, nearly won the Honda LPGA Thailand, ultimately falling in a playoff. At last week’s Firekeepers Casino Hotel Championship on the Epson Tour, 17-year-old Xiaowen Yin earned her first professional victory after winning on the China LPGA Tour as a 15-year-old amateur in 2020. Also last week, Wenyi Ding won the U.S. Junior Amateur, becoming the first male Chinese player to capture a USGA championship.

“I wanted to show people that we have good golfers from China,” Feng said. “When I finished the Olympics and the National Games in September of last year, I decided to put the clubs away, at least for a while. And I can tell you that I haven’t been practicing after that at all. (Since then) I have been enjoying my life.”

Retirement had been speculated for months, but Feng put the announcement off for a myriad of reasons.

“I was actually waiting for the LPGA events to come into China again so I could say goodbye in front of everybody,” Feng said. “But I’ve been waiting for almost a year, and I think it’s not going to happen this year. So, it’s the time now to tell everybody.”

Feng grew up in Guangzhou, in the Guangdong province of southeastern China, not far from Hong Kong. Her father worked for the regional golf federation and took his daughter to a local driving range every afternoon from the time she was 8 years old. A promising amateur, Feng won the China Junior Championship and China Junior Open in 2004 and was a three-time winner of the China Women’s Amateur from 2004 through 2006.

Still, Guangzhou, one of the leading manufacturing centers in China, was not a hotbed for golf. Feng caught the eye of noted instructor Gary Gilchrist, who offered her a scholarship to his academy in South Carolina. There she blossomed. Feng’s English improved as quickly as her game. She earned her LPGA Tour card for the 2008 season by finishing tied for ninth at the Final Stage of LPGA Q School in 2007.

Known for her quick wit and gracious attitude, golf fans learned to love Feng early in her career. She went by “Jenny” when she first joined the tour, a Westernized nickname for those she assumed could not pronounce Shanshan. “You can call me Jenny Money,” she often joked.

When she became the first Chinese golfer ever to win an Olympic medal in 2016, she, along with the other Chinese Olympic athletes, met her nation’s president Xi Jinping. Feng was the only athlete brash enough to flirt with the world leader. “Oh, President, you’re so handsome,” Feng said. Xi was momentarily taken aback, but then smiled and shook Shanshan’s hand again.

Her future plans are up in the air at the moment, although she will likely be involved in the growth of golf in China, where the game has exploded in the last 20 years. 

“There were so many important moments in my career,” Feng said in a moment of reflection. “But if I had to choose just one, it was the moment when I became world No.1. There is only one world No.1.”

And there will only ever be one Shanshan Feng.

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