First equality, then respect: Nelly Korda believes new mixed team events are the ‘perfect’ next step in promoting women’s golf
(CNN) When Nelly Korda faced off against two of the PGA Tour’s best in December, she received rave reviews.
“It’s a testament to these other ladies that anybody can even sniff out beating them because that was incredibly impressive,” Max Homa marveled at reporters after he and Kevin Kisner in the QBE Shootout, a team-based unofficial money event, against Korda and Denny McCarthy started the PGA Tour.
Kisner, a four-time PGA Tour winner, was equally impressed with the women’s world No. 2.
“I think I once called them the Tiger Woods of the LPGA Tour,” Kisner added. “I asked her out there if she wins every tournament. She said ‘no’. I say, ‘I don’t believe you.’”
When Korda was asked about the praise in January, he had a takeaway.
“That they should see more women’s golf,” Korda told reporters, laughing.
“They were very kind with their words to me, but I think if they could come here and watch all the girls compete, they’d be just as impressed.”
In December, the QBE Shootout will be replaced by the Grant Thornton Invitational, held at the same Tiburón Golf Club in Naples. 32 players – 16 from the LPGA Tour and 16 from the PGA Tour – will compete in a mixed team event for a prize pool of US$4 million.
The two tours have not held an annual mixed-team competition since 1999, when Laura Davies and John Daly jointly won the last JCPenney Classic. Korda couldn’t be more excited.
“It’s something so different and unique, I’m so grateful to be a part of it,” she said.
step by step
Part of Korda’s enthusiasm stems from her belief that the event is the next step in the growth of women’s football – although the 24-year-old insists it’s a marathon, not a sprint.
“Growing step by step, bit by bit and learning from mistakes, I think the end result will make our foundation much stronger than growing super fast right away,” Korda said.
“From where we were 10 years ago to where we are now, it’s amazing to see how much we’ve grown and the respect we’re getting.
“You can have equality and you still may not have the respect of the people. And I think once you gain respect, it all kind of falls into place and it becomes much greater than equality.”
Both Korda and her sister Jessica, world No. 25, will join forces with big names in men’s football, with Tony Finau and Rickie Fowler respectively. With five PGA Tour wins apiece, they are considered two of the most talented golfers to win a major.
In Finau, Korda will star alongside one of the main cast members of Netflix’s “Full Swing,” a show documenting the 2022 PGA Tour season. Episode six showcases American charm as a golfer who works hard to balance his career with family commitments.
“He’s such a nice guy, he’s so cute,” Korda said.
“I’m sure everyone knows that now with the Netflix documentary that came out about the PGA Tour and I’ve heard his episode is a really big hit.
“I’m just looking forward to getting to know him better and I think he’s such a solid player overall. I’m really looking forward to playing alongside him.”
But one team event is guaranteed to trump all the others for Korda this season. In September, all eyes will be on Finca Cortesin Golf Club in Andalusia, Spain for the Solheim Cup.
After losing at Gleneagles, Scotland in 2019 and a home defeat at Inverness Club, Ohio in 2021, the US team will be under pressure to prevent a European threesome.
Korda is on the losing side both times and is looking to taste the Solheim Cup victory for the first time. With herself, sister Lexi Thompson, Danielle Kang, Lilia Vu and Jennifer Kupcho all enjoying strong seasons, US team captain Stacy Lewis is spoiled for choice when choosing her 12-man roster.
“At the end of the day, golf is so individual that it’s nice to have teammates and not just play for yourself, but play for them, play for your captain, play for your country,” she said.
“It just brings a new level of respect and it’s so much fun. Every time I have the opportunity, I am filled with pride.”
Korda finished second in women’s golf to New Zealand’s Lydia Ko and enjoyed a series of electric performances on either side of the New Year. Three consecutive top 6 finishes early in 2023 continued a rousing end to 2022 that saw Korda cap out with three top 10 finishes – including victory at the Pelican Women’s Championship in November.
After announcing in March 2022 that she would not be competing in the Chevron Championship due to a blood clot in her arm, she returned in May at the US Women’s Open, her fourth start of the season.
Defending her Pelican Women’s Championship title – her first LPGA Tour win of the season and eighth of her career – marked a cathartic moment for Korda, who was overcome with emotion following her victory.
“2022 was a tough year at the beginning… getting the win at the end was very special for me,” said Korda.
“Each year you strive to be your best self – on the golf course, as a player, as a person.
“If I can have fun and stay healthy, then I know I can do my best.”