Jennifer Peng sure has figured out the stroke-play aspect of the U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur. She is all but assured of earning medalist honors for the second consecutive year. Now comes the really hard part: navigating six rounds of match play to earn the trophy.
Peng fired a 67 on Sunday in Round 2 at 6,086-yard, par-72 Fiddlesticks Country Club (Long Mean Course) in Fort Myers, Fla., for a 36-hole total of 6-under-par 138, one stroke ahead of 2017 champion Kelsey Chugg and three clear of two-time quarterfinalist Katie Miller. Defending champion Blakesly Brock and Krissy Carman, each 1 under, round out the players in red numbers.
Eighteen players were still on the course when play was suspended due to darkness at 7:26 p.m. EDT. Dangerous weather delayed play for 26 minutes starting at 3:17 p.m., after storms delayed Round 1 on Saturday for 2 hours, 40 minutes. The projected cut is at 11-over 155, which would be the lowest in championship history by one stroke.
Peng, 26, of San Diego, Calif. began her day at 1 under and wasted little time getting further into red numbers. Starting on No. 10, she birdied the 11th, 14th and 15th holes, and for the second consecutive day eagled the par-5 18th to turn in 32.
When Peng added birdies at Nos. 4 and 6 to get to 6 under for the day, it looked like she might break her own record for the lowest round in Women’s Mid-Am history – a 66, which she shot last year – but her 3-foot par attempt burned the edge at the par-4 eighth.
Still, Peng’s 67 is the second-lowest round in championship history and her two-round total of 138 is tied for second-best with Julia Potter-Bobb (2019), behind her own 136 from last year at Berkeley Hall Club (North Course), in Bluffton, S.C.
“It would be super exciting,” said Peng, of being the medalist in back-to-back years. “I came in this year looking to improve on my performance – whether medalist or going further in match play. Match play is a very different game, but I love the course and my game is in great shape.”
Chugg, 31, of Salt Lake City, Utah, continued her solid play on Sunday. The overnight clubhouse leader bettered her birdie total from Round 1 with five more circles on her scorecard in Round 2. The nine total birdies are tied with Kimberly Dinh for most in the championship.
“That’s typically my game; try and make a bunch of birdies because that’s the most fun way to play,” said Chugg, who has amassed a 13-3 record in match play at the Women’s Mid-Am and finished runner-up in 2018.
After an opening 71 on Saturday, Miller birdied her first and last holes in Round 2 (Nos. 10 and 9), while playing even-par golf in between.
Miller is playing in her 17th USGA championship. She has been a quarterfinalist four times – twice at the Women’s Mid-Am and twice at the Women’s Four-Ball – and was co-medalist at the 2017 Women’s Mid-Am. She was exempt into last year’s championship but used a maternity deferral to secure a spot in this year’s field.
“I have a 10-month-old, so it’s my first time as a mom,” said Miller, 37, whose husband, Devin Gee, is the head golf professional at nine-time U.S. Open host Oakmont (Pa.) C.C. “It takes a village to run a golf tournament, and it takes a village to raise a baby. Thank God I have a freaking army.”
Brock has backed up her championship-winning performance in 2021 with another solid showing thus far. The 26-year-old from Chattanooga, Tenn., closed with a birdie for the second consecutive day and is poised to earn a top-5 seed in match play.
“Moving on to match play gives me a lot of confidence,” said Brock. “I know for a fact that I can win this championship. I’ve done a lot of hard work this summer, so for it to pay off now in a big championship and one that I care about is great news.”
Round 2 of stroke play will resume at 7:30 a.m. EDT on Monday. The low 64 players will qualify for match play, which will begin later Monday morning. If necessary, a playoff to determine the final match-play spots will also take place on Monday morning.
“Yesterday, after coming off the double [bogey on No. 15], I figured nothing to lose [on 18] so let’s go for it. I hit a 4-hybrid from 205 yards into the green and had a 9-footer for eagle that I made. Then today on 18, I had an identical shot into the green and it rolled to 3 feet. Last year during the Mid-Am, I eagled a par 5 on both stroke-play days, so we’re trying to keep that trend going.” – Jennifer Peng
“It’s cool to catch up with friends and know what they’re doing in their careers. There’s also a number of women with families. So great to be in a field with so much talent and the majority of their lives are outside of golf. Here, we’re changing diapers and sending emails at night to get some work done.” – Katie Miller
“It’s an honor to still be alive [in the championship] at 60 years old against all these young women. I’m at the point where it’s more gratifying to hit a shot when it really counts under the gun against the top competition. I’m just fortunate to still be competitive. Those days are coming, so I'm going to really soak this in.” – Ellen Port
“It’s always exciting [to move on to match play] and it’s not ever guaranteed. I remember grinding away last year during the second day. This year, I'm proud of myself for playing well enough to put myself in position.” – Kelsey Chugg