Rivalry Has Given Nelly Korda The Ability To Block Out Intensity In The Heat Of Battle
We all love a sporting dynasty, but the golfing one being created by the Korda family, with World Number Two golfer, Nelly Korda in the ascendancy, is stronger than most.
Despite being just 23 years old, Korda tells RSNG that competitiveness runs in the family to the extent that, even when she’s under the greatest scrutiny, she steps up and performs…
Nelly Korda leads an impressive display of sibling sporting talent. Her sister, Jessica is five years older, but now below her in the world rankings, and her brother, Sebastian is one of the hottest tennis prospects on the tour. This follows on from the achievements of father Petr (Australian Open winner in 1998) and mother Regina Rajchrtová, who rose to 26 in the world tennis rankings back in the 90’s.
“I think all the family have an inherent ability to block out the intensity in the heat of battle,” she says, “but for me it is as much about scrutiny when away from the golf course, and that’s something I think has added real value to my game.”
“For me it is as much about always having family around you, watching you – particularly my father and my older sister – and seeing if you would pick up some of that natural talent that everyone seems to have, rather than just game pressure; it was growing up in an extremely happy environment where perhaps there was that scrutiny over each shot.”
Rather than just facing scrutiny as a pro, Korda grew up with it. “From a young age I was always used to having that scrutiny follow me around. There was no let-up, so it became second nature to me that people were watching, interested in what I was doing.
“To know I was being watched became as second nature to me as going through the process of lining up a putt.”
But why golf in the first place, given that Korda’s parents were tennis stars? “We are all competitive but would spend more time competing at golf than, say, tennis, or anything else, because it’s a sociable thing, an outing, and we could all do it as a family,” she says.
“It felt very easy to elevate myself through the Symetra Tour and onto the LPGA circuit relatively quickly. I didn’t have to get through that barrier that a lot of golfers encounter, where they are playing in front of no-one and then have to deal with crowds and noise and a hundred eyes watching every move.”
Following a major breakthrough season in 2021, Nelly Korda has won seven wins on the LPGA Tour, including her debut major, finishing first at the Women's PGA Championship in June 2021.
Nelly Korda also competed alongside her sister at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, winning gold for Team USA, in the same time period as she clinched the World Number One spot.
“Playing golf and being at tournaments alongside my sister feels like such an advantage to me,” she says of Jessica Korda, herself ranked in the top 15 golfers in the world. “She would always be there watching over me, assessing my play, and I have often taken real comfort in that.
“Put another way, when Jessica and I compete separately, I miss that scrutiny. I can sometimes feel like a part of me is missing on the course, and that actually adds to the pressure.
“Having my sister there always makes me feel more comfortable – it reminds me a lot of that competitiveness we had when we were growing up, and they are all good memories.”
Nelly Korda hit a couple of roadblocks early in 2022. Not only did she contract Covid, but then underwent surgery for a blood clot in her subclavian vein. The procedure went well and has been followed by intensive injury rehab.
“With any challenge, you need to work out how to turn the negative to a positive; you need to understand that a setback is nothing more than a motivation to problem-solve.
“I don’t doubt that as a young kid I was initially put off by people watching my every move, but now I feed off that and it all feels totally natural to me.”
Nelly and Jessica may be perennial rivals on the LPGA Tour, but this is one duel that is better for the competition. “At the end of the day Jessica is the person who inspires me most to go out there and achieve. The fact we have already done so much together as sisters in the sport means a lot to me, but having her watch over me, and vice versa, will mean we can keep pushing each other on to win more.
“Having an ally and rival means there is no switching off. When other players go for downtime with their families, we head back and talk about the next tournament, but it’s the way we like it!”