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Jessica and Nelly Korda: The ‘built-in best buddies’ taking the golfing world by storm

<i>CNN</i><br/>Sisters Jessica and Nelly Korda
Sisters Jessica and Nelly Korda

By Ben Morse, CNN

Playing on a professional golf tour can be a lonely place for players, traveling all over the globe with often very little time spent at home.

But for sisters Jessica and Nelly Korda, they have a “built-in best buddy” who comes with them to keep them company — each other — as they travel to events far and wide.

The two are both winners on the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) Tour and often find themselves battling one another near the end of tournaments.

But they really feel the importance of having one another in the times away from the course.

“We’ve always said it’s like a built-in best buddy,” Nelly told CNN’s Living Golf. “An automatic dinner buddy.

“Because life gets pretty lonely out here, traveling destination to destination. So it’s fun to have someone in the same hotel and have automatic practice rounds together, too. So it’s a lot of fun and it definitely makes life a lot easier as well.”

Jessica admits that given they’ve grown up and there is only five years between them, it’s “really cool” that they are still “genuinely do like each other.”

“We are best friends and there’s nothing I don’t share with her,” she said.

“And then it’s just so nice, too, when we were standing in line at Avis the other day and the line was like an hour long and just standing there by yourself stinks, but you have somebody else, so you can talk to someone and have fun and just be normal together. So I think that part is really fun for us.”

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A sporting family

Sport is quite literally in the Korda sisters’ blood.

Their father, Petr, capped a fine tennis career in 1998 by winning the Australian Open. His wife, Regina Rajchrtová, was also a pro tennis player.

Even their younger brother, Sebastian, is one of the hottest tennis prospects on the tour at the moment.

Jessica remembers because she was such a “high energy child,” she was thrown into a variety of sports, from “gymnastics to figure skating, to ballet to tap dance, tennis, golf.”

“Anything that I could get energy out, I did it. I didn’t do it for long, obviously because as a kid you’re like: ‘No, I don’t like that. I don’t want to go there anymore.’ But golf always just, I mean, I just felt really at home with golf.”

Their future success in the professional sports of their choice may have been fired in the forges of childhood Monopoly games between the family, as Nelly remembers some particularly “competitive” battles between herself and Sebastian over the board game.

Perhaps that’s because, even though they are the children of two former tennis stars, Nelly recalls their family spending more time together playing golf, as it is easier to do as a group.

And that competitive upbringing seems to have stood the two in good stead in their golfing careers, with both of them multiple-time winners on professional golf tours, despite being just in their twenties.

Jessica, 28, has won six times on the LPGA Tour, with her best finishes at any of the majors being tied-fourth at the ANA Inspiration and the Women’s PGA Championship in 2018.

Nelly meanwhile has enjoyed somewhat of a breakthrough 2021.

Still only 23 years old, she has won four times on the LPGA Tour this season — bringing her total victories on the tour to seven — including her debut major, finishing first at the Women’s PGA Championship in June.

However, possibly the crowning moment of her momentous season — in which she reached world No. 1 in women’s golf rankings — came at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, where she won the gold medal for Team USA.

The coolest part about the experience (besides the “duffels of USA gear” they both received)? Both being able to represent Team USA together.

“Olympics was a big goal [and] to be able to share that with my sister I think was the biggest goal,” Jessica remembers.

“Our mom is the only one that has competed in the Olympics and now it’s like the exclusive girls club in the Korda households. And then watching Nelly win gold and the drama that unfolded over the last hour out on the golf course, with the rain delay, it was just very, very special, not only to watch it, but also play, be able to compete with literally the best players in the world and how hard it is to qualify for the United States team.”

Standing on the podium with the US National anthem playing with her family watching on, Nelly describes feeling a “flood of emotions.”

“It’s weird because for golf growing up, we didn’t have Olympics in our head because it wasn’t a reality until 2016,” she explained.

“So growing up it was these people have trained their entire lives, swimming, track to go to the Olympics. Like that’s the main goal for them. So our main goal growing up, until 2016, was winning major championships.

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“So I didn’t really know what to expect going to it. And then walking through the village was really cool seeing all the other athletes. And once I got on that podium, you don’t really know what to expect because the track and swimming — I’m just saying these two sports, but there’s a bunch of others — they know, like they watch the Olympics and they’re like: ‘This is what I want. This is it.’ So when I got on the podium, I had like tears in my eyes and I was just like: ‘Wow, this is honestly amazing.'”

Although both say their goals for the immediate future extend only as far as staying consistent and healthy, Jessica has a more tangible and lofty aim.

“Stay consistent and try to win some events. Keep myself relevant in the family!” she joked.

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