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Sure, Nelly Korda has played in a U.S. Women’s Open, but that didn’t make competing in a playoff for the Kathy Whitworth Invitational title any less nerve-racking.
It just taught her how to handle her nerves.
Korda, a 15-year-old from Bradenton, Fla., calmed her nerves nicely, making par at the first playoff hole, the par-4 18th at Mira Vista Country Club in Fort Worth, Texas, to defeat Bailey Tardy on Tuesday and notch the biggest victory of her junior golf career.
“Definitely one of the most nerve-racking moments of my life,” said Korda, who made the cut at last year’s U.S. Women’s Open alongside her sister, LPGA player Jessica Korda.
“I wasn’t nervous on the first day (at the Open), but on the second day, thinking about the cut, I was very nervous. . . . I learned how to breathe after that, and that’s something my sister helped teach me.”
Korda got into the playoff with Tardy after both players finished the 36 holes at 5-under 139. Korda was one back of the lead with two holes remaining, but a birdie after a lipped-out, 10-foot eagle at the par-5 17th and a par at the closing hole kept her chances at victory alive.
One the first playoff hole, Korda went right down the split fairway at No. 18 while Tardy went left.
“Left gives you the better angle, but I hit (my irons) high, so it didn’t matter for me, and I felt more comfortable going right,” Korda said.
Tardy’s approach landed about 20 feet past the hole while Korda’s stuck to about 8 feet. With Tardy three-putting for bogey, Korda calmly two-putted for par to seal the win.
Jessica Korda won the 2014 LPGA season opener in the Bahamas in January. Korda’s little brother, Sebastian, won a tennis tournament last week. So Korda knew it was her turn.
“That was motivating,” Korda said. “That made me want to practice extra hard to win this tournament. I was like, ‘I’m here to win this tournament,’ that was my mindset.”
Of course, the news gets better for Korda, who this week received a sponsor exemption into her second major championship. Korda was one of nine amateurs to get invited to play in the Kraft Nabisco Championship April 3-6 in Rancho Mirage, Calif.
“I’m so happy to be playing with the best players in world again,” Korda said. “I was shocked and so happy when I heard the news. I wasn’t expecting it.
“I’m so happy to be playing alongside my sister again.”