When Shanshan Feng announced her intentions to retire after the Olympics at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship earlier this season, the golf world collectively groaned. For the last 13 years, the Guangzhou, China native has kept everyone on tour laughing, famous for her hilarious honesty and witty quips both of which have endeared her to every fan of the women’s game.
Ever ready with a joke and rocking her signature cow print, Feng has carded 23 professional wins, including 10 LPGA victories, highlighted by a major title at what’s now the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship. At the 2016 Olympics in Rio, she took home the Bronze medal, a moment the 32-year-old considers the pinnacle and most special moment of her career.
“Out of all of my achievements I would say a medal at the Olympics is very special,” said Feng. “Even though I have been a major winner, we have five majors every year and in four years we have 20 chances to win a major. I would say it's much harder to get a medal at the Olympics. It was the most important moment of my career.”
While the experience in Brazil was one that Feng will cherish for a lifetime, the mindset is much different this week in Japan. Instead of focusing just on the golf, she plans to soak it all in and leave the country with more friends than she had when she arrived.
“I really enjoyed the last time being in Rio de Janeiro, playing with all the best female golfers from all over the world, and I won the bronze medal, which I was very happy about,” Feng said. “But at the same time, I thought that I didn't really enjoy the whole process. I was so nervous because that was my first Olympic games and I thought maybe it would be my last. This time I was really looking forward to coming to Tokyo and of course I will focus on my game first. But other than that, I want to meet some new friends.”
The expectations Feng has set for herself in Tokyo aren’t nearly as high as they were in the last games either. After taking a full year off in 2020 because of COVID-19, the former world No. 1 made her return to professional golf at this year’s ANA Inspiration, ultimately finishing in a tie for third at the major championship.
Feng also finished fourth at the Bank of Hope LPGA Match-Play after choosing to forgo the consolation match to rest for the U.S. Women’s Open the following week, a decision that ending up paying off when she finished T4 at the Olympic Club.
But, even with all of those solid performances backing up her latest bid for a medal, Feng is much more focused on having a good time than on her golf at the moment. She knows that she’s in the twilight of her professional career and would rather enjoy herself instead of grinding, although her game is trending in a positive direction.
“I know that last time it was maybe at the peak of my career. This time, maybe it's not,” said Feng. “I wouldn't say I'm in my best shape in my career, but I was very happy to come back this year and start at a major and get a top-3 finish and a couple more top-5 finishes after that. I'm very confident about my game. I just really want to enjoy and relax the whole day and the whole week.”
Choosing to retire after such a stellar season isn’t a decision Feng takes lightly. Although 32 may seem like a young age to step away, for many, longevity in the pro ranks isn’t the end goal. Some are happy to call it quits in the interest of turning their attention to life after golf, one that has so much to offer.
“It was a tough decision because I'm already 32,” she said. “I'm not 18 anymore so that one year really makes a difference on the body. I'm pretty sure this is my last Olympic games though. Well, yeah, this is. I don't think I will play in another Olympic games. So, I better enjoy it.”
For someone like Feng, for whom enjoying herself is second nature, you can be sure that her time in Tokyo will be well-spent.