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Competitive Bones

March 29 2013, Katie Ann Robinson

Jessica Korda was born to be an athlete.

Born to Petr Korda and Regina Rajchrtova, both professional tennis players in the 90s, Jessica grew up engulfed in an athletic atmosphere. Her dad was the 1998 Australian Open champion and was ranked as high as No. 2 in the world when Jessica was 5, and her mom enjoyed a successful career before knee injuries ended it the year before she was born.  
   
It may have seemed fitting for Jessica to follow in her parent's footsteps, but Jessica had a different direction in which she would channel her competitive bones.  

"Everybody asks if I'm a tennis player and they're always shocked when I say no," said Jessica. "I don't like playing, I just like watching. I'm the biggest fan. I played tennis, but it never stuck. The love for golf just came easy."

Jessica flew under the radar as a junior and amateur golfer, growing up in Bradenton, Fla. to attend the IMG Academy yet competing in the Czech Republic on the national team during the summer months until she was 15. The dual-citizen even played under the Czech flag when she contested in her first U.S. Women's Open in 2008 where she placed 19th.

During her teenage years, her competitive drive became even more prevalent at the academy where most of her challengers were boys.

"A lot of the guys were super competitive and would make me play from the back tees if I wanted to play with them," said Jessica. "It just kind of made me stronger in a sense because I always wanted to beat the boys. Like here I am a 14-year-old beating the guys. Just always being around athletes you just become very competitive."

Fast forward a few years and it was time for Jessica to decide whether to go to college or turn pro. Promising her parents to take the SAT's if she didn't play well in Q School, Jessica's competitive dial turned up a few notches and she managed to secure a runner-up finish at the 2010 LPGA Final Qualifying Tournament.

In an attempt to enjoy her final years as a teenager, the 2011 rookie competed in about half of the tournaments on the LPGA Tour schedule. A timid 19-year-old during her rookie season, she admits she wasn't fully prepared to take on the role of being a LPGA Tour pro.

"The first year was really hard, I was young and very inexperienced in terms of what it meant to be a professional and have that mentality," says Jessica. "It's so different. I didn't know anybody and there wasn't anyone my age out on Tour so I kind of felt out of sorts. All my friends were still in either high school or on their way to college."

Jessica started off her second season on Tour with a win at the season-opener ISPS Handa Women's Australian Open, making her mark in Australia at the same location of her dad's tennis championship win. Her victory helped ease her way into being comfortable and accepted as a competitor in the elite group of LPGA pros.

"I started traveling a lot by myself my second year and I kind of had to force myself to put myself out there," said Jessica. "I think the girls out here, they see you trying and putting yourself out there and they kind of take you under their wing and start talking to you more. You just get more comfortable. That's kind of what has happened and also my golf game has grown. Coming to these tournaments, I'm so comfortable right now."

With the epidemic of youngsters joining the LPGA Tour in recent years, Jessica has been reunited with many young girls that she competed against in her junior and amateur careers. She admits the splash of young talent on the Tour makes her job that much more enjoyable. 

"A lot of the girls that come out on Tour now are my age," said Jessica. "We've grown up together and played golf together. We don't act differently here than we did back then. We are still goofy and loud. I think we're not as serious as the older generation."

The 20-year-old is off to a hot start in her 2013 campaign, notching back-to-back top-5 finishes at the HSBC Women's Champions and RR Donnelley LPGA Founders Cup. Now in her third year on the LPGA Tour, Jessica feels she almost has tour life pieced together and has big aspirations for the rest of the season.

"I think that my game is progressing well," said Jessica. "Consistency is my goal this year. I kind of struggled with it last season like I would shoot 4-over on the first day and 5-under on the next day to barely make a cut. I'm just looking for consistency in my game this year and so far, so good. I hope it keeps going the way it is and we'll see what happens."

Topics: Player Feature, Korda, Jessica

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