LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – Jessica and Nelly Korda love each other; they’re sisters, but they’re also fierce competitors.
As young girls, the Kordas played golf together nearly every day, and a competitiveness grew between the siblings. Jessica, 27, says her younger sister, an AJGA All-American, didn’t once beat her in those friendly matches at home. When Nelly, 22, joined the LPGA in 2017, she made up for all those losses and beat her sister in her first event on Tour.
“I was watching her and I was like, ‘This is the day. Get it out early,’” Jessica said with a laugh about the first time Nelly beat her at the season opener in the Bahamas. “We kept tying and on the third day she broke out and I was like, ‘Yes. It's over.’”
Nelly shot a third-round 63 and finished T-5 for the week. Jessica shot 72 that same day and finished T-16.
Now, four years later, the sisters are once again competing at the Tour’s season opener, the Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions. This time it’s not just for bragging rights, but for the trophy.
The sisters will play in the final group together on a Sunday for the first time as they vie for victory on the LPGA. They’ll be chasing 54-hole leader Danielle Kang, who leads Jessica by two and Nelly by six. The Kordas tee off at 11:50 am ET.
“We talk, and it's like playing with anyone else,” Nelly said earlier this week about playing with her sister. “You talk, you chit-chat here and there, but at the end of the day, you know, you're trying to get down to business.”
The sisters have been paired together twice before on the LPGA. They were first paired at the 2017 Pure-Silk Championship where they each finished T-31. They played together again later that same season at the Blue Bay LPGA, where Jessica was T-3 and Nelly was T-30.
“I remember at Blue Bay she made a pretty long putt for like 8 or 9 [under],” Nelly said about the second time they played together. “I was like, ‘Do I talk to her? Do I not talk to her?’ But she just burst out laughing after.”
That laughter lightened the tension and made an otherwise uncomfortable situation more manageable. On Sunday, there will no doubt be plenty of laughter between the sisters as they once again navigate unfamiliar territory. They’ve been each other’s biggest fans and supporters when it came time to winning on tour. But never before have they rooted for each other while also trying to beat one another.
In 2018, when Jessica won in her return after major jaw surgery, Nelly was the first to hug her sister on the green. And when Nelly won for the first time in Taiwan later that season, Jessica posted on social media as she watched in the middle of the night, tears streaming down her face, celebrating her sister’s win.
“We both root each other, on but at the end of the day we do want to beat each other as well,” Nelly said. “It's healthy, but a good competitiveness.”