Michelle Penney designs clubs for TaylorMade’s best golfers (and is having a blast too)
If you’ve set foot on a golf course over the past two years, you’ve likely noticed the obvious: The game is booming. That includes women, too, but the momentum is apparent in another realm: leadership roles. As you’ll see in this package — in which we’ll feature eight women in the game — many prestigious jobs in the sport are now occupied by females. From holding down national, front-facing gigs to excelling behind the scenes at golf’s biggest equipment companies, women are making their mark in fields traditionally dominated by men. At GOLF, we celebrate the essential role these women play in making the game better, and more inclusive, for all of us.
On the tee: Michelle Penney, Expert Engineer, Product Development, Metalwoods, TaylorMade Golf
Golf was far from Michelle Penney’s mind when she majored in mechanical engineering at the University of California, San Diego. Instead, Penney intended to spend her career in auto design, and her résumé includes stints at Acura, Nissan and American Specialty Cars. When she posted her CV in hopes of returning to her hometown of San Diego, she was quickly headhunted by TaylorMade Golf. That was 14 years ago, and she hasn’t looked back.
“It’s such a fun job. It’s such a challenging job,” Penney says of her role at TaylorMade. “I get to do all the things that I love. I get to do CAD design. I get to break stuff! I always thought that cars were the perfect marriage between design and engineering, but a ball on impact experiences several thousand times the g-force of a car accident. And for us to be able to deem a product worthy of production, that impact has to happen several thousand times.”
Penney’s passion for her craft is palpable. And she has plenty to be proud of. She was the product development engineer responsible for TaylorMade’s heralded Stealth line of drivers and is excited to note that four of the engineers on the team were women.
“For me, coming into this industry, to make a product resonate with our customers in terms of look, sound, feel, and then also to outperform all of our competitors, that’s when I get the joy,” she says.
Another joy for Penney? The full-circle nature of the business. Right after she was hired by TaylorMade in 2008, she watched Tiger Woods win the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines — a moment she says made her fall in love with golf. Now? She’s designing clubs for him.