Feng, 15, emerges on upside of swing changes

Simin Feng during the first round of the AJGA's Annika Invitational.

REUNION, Fla. – In the past year, Simin Feng has been to rock bottom, but now – with a smile on her face – she’s working her way back.

Feng, 15, fell victim to a swing change last year, and hit her lowest point at the AJGA’s Thunderbird Invitational. Her final-round 103 caused heads to turn in the once junior-phenom’s direction. On the two-year anniversary of her AJGA breakthrough – she won the inaugural Annika Invitational in 2009 – Feng was itching for revenge.

“The only thing was that being so long time in the dip, I have to find myself more confidence coming back and stuff,” Feng said.

Such an exaggerated dip is unusual for Feng. Already in her career, she’s made two LPGA starts. During the latter of those, the 2009 Hana Bank Kolon Championship, Feng scored a second-round pairing with Lorena Ochoa. It amounted to a huge learning experience for Feng, who plays and practices out of Reunion Resort near Orlando, Fla.

Feng, who doesn’t even need to start thinking about college as she won’t graduate until 2013, describes the swing changes she underwent with coach Henry Reis as necessary for the overall health of her game. The major adjustment involved relying more on her body during her swing, not just her arms. She also adjusted her tempo. The changes have resulted in an additional 15-20 yards off the tee, but also came with a few mental hiccups.

“It wasn’t the change that really caused me trouble, it was only my mental wise,” Feng explained. “... Actually I’m hitting the ball really good, either my driver can’t swing or I can’t putt, that’s the only two things I’m missing. So top to bottom, either I can’t finish or I can’t start.”

Another tweak that will help the longevity of her career? Weakening her grip so that she can work her way around the golf course with more options than her go-to draw.

“The grip has to be changed, you have to grip it right to hit it good and you want to work around the golf course, not me just trying to hit a draw,” she said. “That’s not going to work in the future. That’s just for me getting better.”

Already, Feng is seeing progress. In the season-opening Annika Invitational, the past champion opened with rounds of 76-75. She fell to a final-round 86 to finish T-61, but she’s hoping for another shot at redemption when the Thunderbird rolls around in May.

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