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U.S. WOMEN'S OPEN
Korda Sisters Chase Major Dream at Olympic Club June 1, 2021 | San Francisco, Calif. By Ron Sirak

A major title this week at Olympic would be worthy of a few selfies and social-media posts for Jessica (left) and Nelly Korda. (Robert Beck/USGA)

76th U.S. Women's Open Home

Dinner at the Korda house during holiday get-togethers likely has a little more than the mashed potatoes being passed around the table. Some friendly jabs must circulate as well when the topic turns to major championships.

Jessica and Nelly enter the 76th U.S. Women’s Open at The Olympic Club as the two top players in the Rolex Rankings without a major. Meanwhile, dad Petr has a tennis major and brother Sebastian has one in junior tennis, putting them at the head of the table.

But that could change this week at this historic venue in the shadows of San Francisco.

When the question in golf is: “Who’s the best player without a major championship” it’s never easy to answer. But with Nelly at No. 4 and Jessica No. 11, there is no one in the top 11 of the Rolex Rankings without a major who isn’t named Korda.

Petr won the 1998 Australian Open and Sebastian took the Aussie Open boys division in 2018. Just last week, 20-yeard-old Seb picked up his first ATP victory, a great springboard for him into the French Open, a tennis major underway now.

Both Jessica and Nelly made their major championship debuts as teenagers in the U.S. Women’s Open. Jessica finished T-19 at Interlachen C.C. in 2008 when she was 15 and Nelly was 14 at Sebonack G.C. in 2013 when she was T-64.

“For me, it just holds a very special place in my heart,” Jessica said of the U.S. Women’s Open. “This is where I knew I wanted to be a professional golfer, and it gave me that first test or taste of what it was like.”

While Jessica, 28, has six LPGA Tour victories and seven top-10 finishes in the majors – including T-7 in the 2013 U.S. Women’s Open – her best finish in a major is T-4 in the ANA Inspiration and KPMG Women’s PGA, both in 2018.  

“This my seventh U.S. Open,” said Nelly. “I played in my first one when I was 14, and every single time I walk on the range or walk on the golf course at a U.S. Open, it just gives me a feeling inside that I love.”

Nelly, 22, has won four times on the LPGA Tour, with T-2 in the 2020 ANA as her best in a major, adding a T-3 at this year’s ANA. Her best effort in a U.S. Women’s Open was T-10 in 2019.

Both Kordas come into The Olympic Club with reason to have major expectations. Jessica won the season-opening Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions and Nelly followed up by winning the next event, the Gainbridge LPGA.

Nelly has five other top-10 finishes this year, including a second and two thirds. Jessica also has a second and a third in 2021 and both are in the top five on Tour in scoring average, Race to the CME Globe points and Rolex Player of the Year points.

“This is going to be a great test of golf,” said Jessica. “This is a proper U.S. Open golf course. It's hard. Small greens, high rough. Yeah, it's going to be difficult, but I'm super excited about it.”

One aspect of the week that pleases Petr Korda and his wife Regina Rajchrtova, who was a top-30 tennis player, is that their daughters are paired together with 2011 U.S. Women’s Open champion So Yeon Ryu the first two rounds. That means less walking for them.

“Our parents are so excited,” said Jessica. “They're like, ‘We don't have to walk 36 holes. We can all come at the same time.’ We like playing together, so there's no issue.”

The sisters, whose tradition is to make a bet at the beginning of the season in which the sibling who has the better year gets an expensive handbag paid for by the other sister, have similar games – featuring power off the tee – but slightly different personalities.

“She's maybe more of an introvert until she gets to know you,” said Jessica of Nelly. “In terms of golf, we don't talk about golf once we leave the golf course. We talk about shopping, food, shows – honestly, just like you would talk to your friend about.”

While Nelly is the middle child, she often finds herself described in terms of other family members.

“I get referred to as Petr Korda's daughter and Jessica Korda's little sister, and now I'm going to be referred to as Sebastian Korda's little sister,” said Nelly. But all that sibling rivalry leads not to jealousy but rather inspiration.

“He put in so much work, and to just see that is pretty inspiring,” Nelly said about Seb. “Jess is playing really well this year, too. We all have a win, which is cool. I guess, in a way, we are feeding off each other. I think it's cool.”

And then there is that major question hanging over the siblings.

 “Well, there actually is a major on the Korda resume – it’s my dad,” Nelly said, provoking laughter. “It's definitely a No. 1 goal of ours to contend in majors and to eventually lift a trophy, but it's all about preparation. It's all about the mindset going into the week and not putting so much pressure on yourself.”

There is a chance all three Korda siblings could qualify to represent the United States in the Tokyo Olympic Games this summer.

“I mean, it would be amazing,” said Nelly. “But same as Jess, I don't really look at it too much. Right now, I'm just focusing on this week and see where that takes me.”

Right now, the only Olympics on the minds of the Korda sisters is The OIympic Club. Meeting that challenge as well as the test of the U.S. Women’s Open setup and the challenge of the other players could lead to a trophy that would make a great gravy boat at the next Korda family meal.

Ron Sirak is a Massachusetts-based freelance writer who frequently contributes to USGA digital channels.

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