Nelly Korda won't miss major as LPGA rookie after getting into U.S. Women's Open

USGA

Nelly Korda won't miss major as LPGA rookie after getting into U.S. Women's Open

LPGA Tour

Nelly Korda won't miss major as LPGA rookie after getting into U.S. Women's Open

BEDMINSTER, N.J. – Nelly Korda chipped in for birdie on her 36th hole of sectional qualifying and then birdied the first playoff hole from 15 feet – on a Tuesday – to become an alternate for the 72nd U.S. Women’s Open.

Then she waited. Actually, she kept calling the U.S. Golf Association to check on her chances of getting into the field at Trump National Golf Club until finally on Monday morning of tournament week, the USGA called her. Korda’s flight to New Jersey, via Atlanta, took off 90 minutes later from Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport.

“She likes to make it dramatic,” cracked older sister Jessica.

Nelly arrived too late on Monday evening to see the golf course. Good thing Jessica, who played in the 2009 U.S. Girls’ Junior at Trump’s place but remembered almost nothing, had already played 18 on the Old Course. Nelly played the back nine with Jessica on Tuesday and the front nine on Wednesday, and took pointers. In between shots, they followed the online play-by-play of younger brother Sebastian, 17, who lost in the second round of the Wimbledon Boys’ Singles Championship. Their father, Petr, is in England following Sebastian’s European tour.

The Kordas’ coach, David Whelan, noted the confidence that it takes for an 18-year-old to come into a new course at a major championship and be OK with playing only 18 holes before the competition starts. Plenty of others might wear themselves out trying to cram in more over 48 hours.

“I don’t feel rushed,” said Nelly. “We’ll see how it goes.”

This marks the third time the Korda sisters have competed together in a U.S. Women’s Open. The first came in 2013 at Sebonack, where a 14-year-old Nelly made the cut.

“I remember how tiny she was,” marveled Jessica.

Jessica Korda, right, leans on her sister Nelly Korda during a practice round ahead of the 2017 U.S. Women’s Open at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J. (USGA/Darren Carroll)

Both Korda sisters drive the ball well, a key element on a lengthy setup that will only get softer if the forecast holds true. The greens at Trump National are massive. Placement will be key, as Whelan said it’s almost like having four greens in one.

Nelly was struggling to chip out of the thick rough around the greens, so Whelan taught her the 10-finger grip on Wednesday morning so that she could get under the ball as much as possible so that it lands as soft as possible.

Nelly has qualified for all five majors in her rookie season, heady stuff for a young woman who only turned professional last season. She began her LPGA career with a tie for fifth in the Bahamas that included a third-round 63. Her first of only two missed cuts came in early June at the ShopRite LPGA Classic.

“You can’t play well every week, I’ve noticed,” she said.

Jessica, who re-aggravated a left forearm injury last month in Arkansas, sits comfortably in fifth place on the Solheim Cup list. The top eight automatically qualify. The 24-year-old was a rookie on the 2013 Solheim Cup team that competed in Colorado Springs but did not qualify for Germany.

U.S. captain Juli Inkster invited Nelly to a practice session in Houston last April. She impressed everyone there, but will likely require a pick to make the team. Right now she’s 95th in the Rolex Rankings. The top two American players in the Rolex Rankings who are outside the top eight on Solheim points also make the team. Brittany Lincicome (41st) and Mo Martin (44th) currently occupy those spots.

“I definitely think she’s got the confidence to step up and do it if she did get picked,” said Whelan, who coached a young Paula Creamer when she first qualified for the 2005 team her rookie season.

The Korda sisters have never played on a team together. Nelly said they don’t really talk about the possibility of playing together in Des Moines, Iowa, to keep the pressure at bay.

“It’s not the last Solheim,” said Nelly, smiling.

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