RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. – Jessica Korda checked up on her little sister toward the end of Friday’s suspended second round at the ANA Inspiration.
Standing at the 16th tee during a backup in play, Jessica turned to see Nelly stiff a wedge tight at the adjacent 12th green. Nelly knew her big sister was watching and looked at her as if to say, “How about that, sis?”
Jessica loved it, and they waved to each other.
“I’m so proud,” Jessica said.
It was a great day for the Kordas, for all five of them squeezed into the home of the Berenzweigs, family friends with a place at Mission Hills Country Club.
Nelly, the 18-year-old rookie, posted a 3-under-par 69 to move to 6 under overall, just one shot behind Suzann Pettersen in the suspended second round at the Dinah Shore Course.
Jessica, 24, made her own move, rebounding from a sluggish start to shoot 67 and move just four off the lead.
But they weren’t the only Kordas coming up big on Friday.
Sebastian, the 16-year-old brother, won his match to advance to the semifinals of the Easter Bowl USTA Junior National Spring Championship at nearby Indian Wells.
Parents Petr Korda and Regina Rajchrtova are in the desert with their gifted children. They know all about performing on big stages as tennis stars. Petr won the 1998 Australian Open; Regina was among the top 25 in the world in her prime.
Jessica, a four-time LPGA winner, was asked what it’s like to see her sister’s name above hers on a leaderboard.
“I’m like, man, I wish I was as good as her,” Jessica cracked. “It's so great. I know all the hard work that she has put in, too, and I'm so proud to see that it's paying off and paying off really quickly. She's had a stellar, stellar rookie season so far and hopefully it continues.”
Nelly, who earned her LPGA status on the Symetra Tour last year, keeps building on a strong rookie start. She tied for fifth at the Pure Silk Bahamas Classic in her rookie debut.
“I'm just over the moon, truthfully,” Nelly said. “Playing alongside my sister, and playing alongside the girls I used to look up to. I'm just really happy to be out here.”
There’s more than a major championship hanging in the balance for the Korda sisters this weekend. There’s purse money to be won, as in money for a Gucci, Prada or whatever kind of handbag is desired by the Korda sister who finishes highest on the year-end money list.
They have a season-long bet.
“I’m a little worried,” Jessica said.
Jessica is 28th on this week’s money list, Nelly 32nd.
Jessica is the dutiful big sister, always trying to look out for Nelly. In fact, Jessica joked that it’s hard work sometimes.
“It's like baby-sitting,” Jessica said. “My sister forgets her phone. She forgets her bag.”
Jessica said after making a big deal to remind Nelly not to leave a cup of fruit in the car this week, Nelly left it in the car.
“Can't complain, though,” Jessica said. “Apart from the baby-sitting.”
The Korda sisters can’t help but like tennis, but it’s a spectator sport for them. They don’t like to play tennis, not with their father and brother.
“They just like to make us run, so it's really not that fun,” Jessica said. “You have, basically, two professionals on one side and two wooden girls. It's not good.”
The Korda sisters did battle each other over a tennis match on Thursday. They watched Nick Kyrgios vs. Alexander Zverev on TV in a Miami Open match. Nelly was rooting for Kyrgios because “he has the same initials as me.” Jessica was rooting for Zverev.
“We were screaming at each other, `Yes! No!’” Nelly said.
They’ve been relaxing playing with a new Pomeranian puppy they bought last week, a gift they’re going to deliver to their grandparents.
There’s a long way to go, but a perfect ending this week would be for all the Kordas to jump into Poppie’s Pond together.