PARADISE ISLAND, Bahamas – Jessica Korda delivered good medicine to her ailing swing coach.
Every well struck shot was a soothing tonic Friday with Korda fighting her way to the top of the leaderboard through stiff winds at the Pure Silk Bahamas LPGA Classic. A 7-under-par 66 put her a shot ahead of Paula Creamer (65) in the second round of the season-opening event.
Back in Bradenton, Fla., where the IMG Academy’s Grant Price is waging a more serious fight of his own, there was delight watching Korda’s performance in the Golf Channel telecast.
Korda and Price have been working together the last two weeks overhauling Korda’s swing under challenging circumstances.
Price (right), who is a nephew of Hall of Famer Nick Price, was diagnosed with stage 3 testicular cancer nine months ago. He endured 4 1/2 months of chemotherapy last summer, then major surgery last month, a retroperitoneal lymph dissection that left him with a scar from his sternum to his groin.
When Korda contacted Price a few weeks ago, he didn’t hesitate to offer his help. Korda, 20, struggled with her swing last year, and she believed odd habits led to a nagging left wrist injury and shoulder problem. She thought it was time to find a new swing coach, to rebuild a swing, and she turned to Price. They knew each other from Korda’s days as a student at the IMG Academy.
“Grant saved me back then,” Korda said. “He saved me from quitting the game.”
Back when Korda was 15, she said she struggled wondering if the golf life and all it entailed was really for her.
“At that age, you’re trying to figure things out,” Korda said.
Price, 36, helped her figure it out. His love of the game was infectious.
“He’s just so super positive, such a happy guy,” Korda said. “I think it’s what I’m really feeding off in our work together.”
Price is on leave from the IMG Academy, and he says he terribly misses his work there. So, the time with Korda has been good for Price, too, even though their first session at the Ritz-Carlton range in Bradenton was trying earlier this month. Price was mostly limited to sitting in a golf cart. He’s still healing, still recovering, still fighting.
“I went into this openly,” Price told GolfChannel.com in a telephone interview. “My health’s going the right way, but day to day, I don’t know my limits. There’s only a certain amount I can manage.”
Price says he’s getting stronger, and the work is good therapy.
“The thing I loved watching her play today was how much she was smiling, how much she was enjoying playing,” Price said. “That is so underrated. The fact that she was enjoying herself told me she’s comfortable with what we’re doing.”
Korda says she has changed her grip, setup and swing plane under Price.
“I’m so proud of Jessica,” Price said. “It was very brave of her to step out with this new concept and go with it.”
When Price first met with Korda this month, he saw she had lost clubhead speed with the evolution of her swing. He also saw problems with her feet and balance. Those issues were leading to a “hand track” that was too vertical, and then too steep, causing her to take some jarring divots that may have contributed to her wrist and shoulder issues.
“We’re just working on keeping everything on plane, keeping it really simple, to where if something goes wrong on the golf course, I can fix it myself,” Korda said. “Just keeping everything on plane, so I don’t have to use my hands as much as I did, which is taking a lot of pressure off my shoulder and wrist.”
Korda, who broke through to win the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open at the start of the 2012 season, is in position to make a weekend run at her second title. She has made 15 birdies over two days on the Ocean Club Golf Course.
“The fact that she’s been able to comprehend and implement the adjustments so quickly is a testament to how savvy she is with the golf swing,” Price said.
There’s more than knowledge exchanged when Price and Korda work. There’s perspective. Price is married with two children, a 6-year-old daughter and 3-year-old son.
“I just love his kids,” Korda said. “They’re the sweetest kids ever.”
Korda’s swing changes may be a work in progress, but it’s proving therapeutic for both Price and Korda.