PARADISE ISLAND, Bahamas – Jessica Korda, covered in Pure Silk shaving cream, walked over to two adorable blond girls on her way to the scoring tent and gave away her golf ball. Grant Price saw the gesture unfold from his Florida home, and later praised his newest student for doing something so unselfish in the midst of her big moment.
“That was so classy,” said Price, a senior instructor at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla.
It wasn’t too long ago that Price was persuading a 15-yearold Korda not to quit the game. Price wasn’t Korda’s instructor at the time, just a friend.
“The world isn’t against you,” Price told Korda. “The good times will outweigh the bad.”
Korda, the eldest daughter of former tennis star Petr Korda, listened, found success, and five years later when she again felt her swing spinning out of control, asked Price for help. This time, she wanted him to become her swing coach . . . Two weeks before the Pure Silk Bahamas LPGA Classic.
“There was just stuff that wasn’t working,” said Korda, who could hit a 50-yard push cut just as quickly as she could hook one 80 yards.
Korda – not one to shy away from risk – proved to be a quick study with a gutsy one-stroke victory Jan. 26 over American stalwart Stacy Lewis. Two years ago, Korda also won the LPGA’s season-opener, the ISPS Australian Women’s Open in a six-person playoff and scissor-kicked like dad.
It was just before that tournament that Korda played a round of golf in Florida at The Bear’s Club with Jack Nicklaus and got a handy tip.
“He always told me a bad putt is still better than a bad chip,” said Korda, who put that advice to use on the 18th hole Sunday when her ball came to rest in a bundle of TV cables behind the green.
Although the grandstands were positioned directly behind the ball, Korda found she had enough room to putt. Her new caddie for the week, Kyle Bradley, fancied the lie and suggested someone hold the cables in the air while Korda putted underneath them.
Korda found the whole situation rather amusing and a welcome distraction from the fact that she needed to birdie the hole to avoid a playoff with Lewis.
“It was like double Dutch,” Korda said of the cables, referring to the children’s jump-rope game.
Golf Channel reporter Phil Parkin and LPGA rules official Dan Maselli held the wires aloft as Korda putted up the hill to 6 feet and converted the birdie, letting loose on a powerful fist pump. Moments later she was soaked in shaving cream by friends Brittany Lincicome and Katherine Hull-Kirk, and then squealed in the scoring tent when rookie Lydia Ko poured a bottle of cold water on her.
It was quite the opposite of what she felt on Saturday when she cold-shanked an approach shot out of bounds on the par-4 13th. She followed that shocking blip with a birdie on the next hole, however, to show the kind of tough skin that’s needed to be successful in this game for the long haul. Korda birdied three of her last four holes Sunday to snatch the title from a cluster of the LPGA’s biggest names.
Further evidence of Korda’s bravado was on display in the U. S. Women’s Open at Sebonack last summer when she fired her caddie midround while in contention, pulling her boyfriend, Johnny DelPrete, out of the gallery to carry her bag.
Bradley, an aspiring PGA Tour player who caddies at Augusta National, was chosen by Korda after she conducted a series of phone interviews from a list her agent had put together. She was keen on Bradley’s Southern accent. The pair won their first week together.
For Price, the best part about Sunday was seeing Korda enjoy golf again.
“Grant means so much to me,” Korda said after the victory. “He’s so positive . . . It’s given me a lot of confidence this week.”
It’s easy to find inspiration in Price, who was diagnosed with Stage 3 testicular cancer nine months ago. The 36-yearold nephew of Nick Price underwent chemotherapy over the summer and had his second major surgery Dec. 3, a retroperitoneal lymph dissection. Price hugged his surgeon when he found out that his kidney had been spared.
Because Price can’t be on his feet very long, he has been on leave from his work at IMG since early December. But he couldn’t say no to Korda, and sat in a cart at the Ritz-Carlton in Sarasota, moving it from time to time to view different angles.
“There were days I literally had 45 minutes with her because I simply couldn’t do any more,” Price said.
He relied on the phone in the afternoons, getting feedback on shot patterns and sensations.
Korda feared her old swing was contributing to an ailing left wrist and shoulder. She and Price looked at everything from grip to posture to alignment. The biggest change came in her swing plane, which had become too steep.
“I’m just very fortunate that her golf IQ is very high,” Price said of their quick work on a limited schedule.
Korda began hitting woods only one week before she came to the Bahamas. She also credited DelPrete, a professional player, for pushing her to hit shots with which she’s not comfortable, especially while making swing changes. DelPrete pridefully followed every hole last week.
Price will be scanned in six weeks to reassess the surgical results, but doctors think they’ve gotten all of the cancer.
Korda said she began every practice session by asking Price, a father of two, how he felt that day.
Her victory in the Bahamas was surely the very best kind of medicine.
Editor’s note: This story originally appeared in the Jan. 31 issue of Golfweek magazine; click here to subscribe.