Nelly Korda Hopes to Join Big Sister on the LPGA Tour in 2017
She has grown up watching her older sister become a young star on the LPGA Tour. Now she wants to follow in her footsteps. A lot of eyes in the golfing world will be on young Nelly Korda this season. The 17-year-old younger sister of LPGA star Jessica Korda has just turned pro, hoping to join her sister on the LPGA Tour in 2017.
In February, Nelly teed it up for the first time as a pro in the IOA Championship, the Symetra Tour’s first event of the 2016 season. Nelly could earn her LPGA card for next year if she finishes in the top 10 on the Symetra Tour money list at the end of this season. The LPGA Q-School is another option for getting membership on the LPGA if she does not earn her card through the Symetra Tour.
Nelly’s premier event as a pro was a success by anyone’s standards. She shot 2-under par over the three days of the event and finished tied for 18th place. She will likely receive some sponsor exemptions to play in a few LPGA events this season. On the outside chance that she should win one of those events she could possibly be granted an age waiver for immediate membership on the LPGA. Nelly could also earn immediate membership on the LPGA with three wins on the Symetra Tour this year.
The first time I ever saw Nelly was in the summer of 2010 at the Essex County Club in Beverly, Massachusetts. Her big sister, along with Lexi Thompson and several other great young American women amateurs, were representing the United States in the biennial Curtis Cup competition against the team from Great Britain and Ireland.
Nelly and her parents were in the gallery, following Jessica’s group during one of the rounds. Nelly was walking just ahead of me and a couple of my friends when her jacket fell out of her backpack. I picked it up and handed it back to her and asked her if she played golf too. “Yeah,” she answered with a shy smile. Little did I realize at the time that Nelly, who was just 11 years old then, was already developing into a great young player herself.
Back in 2010 Nelly looked like a miniature version of her sister; both with long and lean frames. They both got their athleticism and body types from their parents. Petr Korda and Regina Rajchrtova were from Czechoslovakia and were both professional tennis players when they met and married. The Kordas settled in Bradenton, Florida where they have raised Jessica and Nelly and a son Sebastian, the youngest of the three children. Sebastian is now a budding young tennis player himself.
Following a stellar amateur career, Jessica turned pro in December of 2010 and quickly earned her LPGA card at the young age of 17 when she finished as the runner-up in the final stage of LPGA Q-School. Her LPGA career began in 2011 (she turned 18 during the second event of the 2011 season) and she is now, at the age of 23, already a four-time winner on the tour. She played on the U S Solheim Cup team in 2013 and is consistently one of the tour’s leading money winners.
The next time I saw Nelly after the Curtis Cup encounter in 2010 was in January of 2013 when she was competing in the SALLY women’s amateur event in Ormond Beach, Florida. Her sister had won that prestigious event in 2010 as a young amateur. Nelly was 14 in 2013 and had grown several inches, looking more and more like her older sister. Her swing looked very much like Jessica’s also. Her father Petr was caddying for her in the SALLY event and told me her game was developing much the same way that Jessica’s had in her early teen years.
Later in 2013 Nelly qualified to play in the U S Women’s Open for the first time, joining her sister in the premier event in US women’s golf. She made the cut, finishing T64 for the event, which was no small achievement for a 14-year-old. Like her sister, Nelly also collected a long and impressive list of amateur credentials in her early teen years, proving that she had the talent necessary to look forward to a possible career as a pro.
In 2015, Nelly put the wheels in motion in the direction of turning pro instead of planning to play college golf. Her sister had followed the same route. She petitioned the LPGA to allow her to play in the first two stages of Q-School to give her the chance to compete on the Symetra Tour this year while still only 17 years old. Nelly finished 3rd in the first stage and won the second stage of Q-School, guaranteeing her a spot on the Symetra Tour for the 2016 season, and just before last week’s first event of the year she announced that she was turning pro.
If she earns her LPGA card this year, either through the Symetra Tour or the Q School process, she will be joining the LPGA at nearly the same age as Jessica. The two sisters, who are now hard to tell apart from a distance, would then be competing against each other on the biggest stage in women’s golf.
Right now, Moriya and Ariya Jutanugarn from Thailand are the only two sisters playing on the LPGA. Don’t be surprised if Nelly and Jessica Korda are the second sister act on the LPGA in 2017.
Dave Andrews is a retired television news reporter. He is also an avid golfer who has become a fan of the LPGA and the Symetra Tour.
Dave is the author of Pops and Sunshine, a novel and screenplay about a young woman pro’s dream and struggle to make it to the LPGA. The screenplay has been optioned by a production company in Hollywood. The novel is available at Kindle Ebooks.
Follow Dave online on Twitter @PopsandSunshine