Kraft Nabisco invites Nelly Korda, 8 other amateurs

Nelly Korda will play in the LPGA's 2014 Kraft Nabisco Championship as an amateur (shown here during the 87th South Atlantic Amateur at Oceanside Country Club in Ormond Beach, Fla.).

Nine amateurs will compete on sponsor exemptions at the Kraft Nabisco Championship on April 3-6 in Rancho Mirage, Calif., including 15-year-old Nelly Korda, who made headlines at last year’s U.S. Women’s Open by making the cut alongside older sister Jessica.

“I learned how to breathe properly when I get nervous,” Nelly of her experience at Sebonack, where she tied for 64th. Jessica competed on a sponsor exemption at the Kraft as an amateur in 2010, tying for 67th.

Alabama’s Emma Talley – one of four college players to receive invites – was an automatic recipient for having won the 2013 U.S. Women’s Amateur. NCAA champ Annie Park, a sophomore at USC, also got the nod along with UCLA freshman Alison Lee and Clemson freshman Ashlan Ramsey, Golfweek’s No. 1 amateur.

Angel Yin, 15, made the cut at last year’s Kraft Nabisco after winning the Kraft Nabisco Legends Junior Challenge to get into the field. This year she won’t have to work as hard, earning an exemption along with fellow juniors Minjee Lee, Brooke Henderson Su Hyun Oh and Korda.

Henderson, 16, also made the cut at last year’s USWO. Her recent victories include the Canadian Women’s Amateur, South American Amateur, South Atlantic Amateur and Junior Orange Bowl. At age 14, she became the youngest player to win a professional event on the CN Canadian Women’s Tour.

Lee and Oh, two 17-year-old amateurs from Australia, already have distinguished themselves at professional tournaments. Lee won the Oates Victoria Open last month after winning her second Australian Women’s Amateur. Both players have finished runner-up at the Australian Ladies Masters in the past two years.

Stanford’s Mariah Stackhouse declined an invitation because of a conflict with a college tournament. Stackhouse will be playing in the previous week's LPGA Kia Classic by virtue of her victory at the UC Irvine Invitational.

“I actually said yes,” Stackhouse said. “The next day I woke up and I didn’t feel complete about it.”

She sent a second email to tournament officials saying she had changed her mind.

“I’m really proud of her,” Cardinal head coach Anne Walker said. “It’s a testament to her character. It’s also an indication of the culture we have developed on the team, that it’s team first.”

Stackhouse, a veteran of two U.S. Women’s Opens, will compete in the San Diego State Farms Invitational on March 24-26 for Stanford and then tee it up at Kia on Thursday, March 27. The sophomore from Riverdale, Ga., will get a practice round on the Saturday before the tournament.

Korda, who won the Kathy Whitworth Invitational on March 11 in a playoff, is testing a swing that has been retooled by Grant Price. Following the lead of Jessica, who won the Pure Silk Bahamas LPGA Classic in January, two weeks after overhauling her swing with Price, Nelly hopped onboard the lesson train to get rid of a severe hook she had developed.

“I’m so happy the way I’m hitting it now,” said Korda, who eliminated a loop in her swing. She began working with Price, an IMG Academy instructor, in January.

Nelly Korda has traveled to Palm Springs the last two years to watch Jessica compete in the LPGA’s first major but has yet to play the course herself. She’ll have her father, Petr, on the bag, as she did last summer on Long Island.

“The candy is awesome there,” Nelly said.

The Oreos aren’t bad, either.

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