In the 68 previous LPGA seasons, only once had a woman joined her sister in the tour’s winner’s circle. This year it has happened twice. With a masterful bogey-free 68, Nelly Korda won the Swinging Skirts LPGA Taiwan Championship Presented by CTBC by two strokes Sunday, holding off a determined challenge by Minjee Lee to pick off the win she thought she had in Singapore earlier this year only to be nipped at the finish line by Michelle Wie.
In February, Nelly’s big sister Jessica picked up her fifth LPGA win at the Honda LPGA Thailand. And Sunday in Chinese Taipei Nelly wrote the name “Korda” in the history books next to those of Annika and Charlotta Sorenstam and Ariya and Moriya Jutanugarn. Moriya captured the HUGEL-JTBC LA Open in April while Ariya, who wrapped up Rolex Player of the Year honors on Sunday, has taken three of her 10 LPGA title this year. It was an emotional moment Nelly shared with Jessica via the magic of technology.
“Truthfully, I cannot put it into words,” she said about the thrill of victory. “It's definitely one of the best days of my entire life. I can finally check that off of my list, winning an LPGA event, something that I dreamed of ever since I started playing. Walking off the 18th, I saw my friends lined up and my sister was on FaceTime and I just lost it. I definitely had a couple tears going down my face.”
The 20-year-old Korda began the final round tied for the lead with home-country hero Wei-Ling Hsu and two stokes clear of five other players. She took control with a birdie on No. 4 and an eagle on No. 6 then put an exclamation point on the process with a birdie on No. 10 as she completed her flawless round to finish at 13-under par 275. Lee was at 277 with Ryann O’Toole at 278 and Carlota Ciganda, Megan Khang, Lydia Ko and Hsu at 280.
Korda pointed to the stretch from No. 4 through No. 6 as the turning point. “I was hitting it really well on the front nine,” she said. “No. 4 is definitely probably one of the hardest holes on this golf course because you have such a long approach into the green. Yeah, those couple of holes definitely gave me a boost of confidence going into the final nine holes, and it gave me a pretty good lead.”
While Lee was making a charge with a mistake-free 66 and applied pressure to Korda with birdies on Nos. 17 and 18, Hsu, perhaps feeling the burden of expectation from the adoring fans in her homeland, began her slide with bogeys on Nos. 7 and 8 and had three more hiccups on the back nine to close with a 74.
“Wei-Ling had a couple oopsies on the last couple holes on the front nine,” Korda said. “It was amazing, seeing how much the crowd was going for her. It was special. When she made a birdie or stuck it close, the crowd roars were really loud. I was like, is Tiger Woods playing here? It was definitely really cool to see, and I love that they support their players so much here.”
Korda, who won the 2016 Sioux Falls GreatLIFE Challenge on the Symetra Tour, is the eighth different player from the United States to win this year, one better than South Korea. The Koreans have won a total of nine tournaments and the Americans eight.
“I came so close in Singapore,” Korda said. “Unfortunately, I missed that by a shot. But I've been really motivated the entire year, and you know, I've just been really working towards this goal.” Then she discussed sisterly support.
“She's been there every step of the way,” Nelly said about Jessica, who was back at home in Florida. “She's been there for me in Singapore. I know that kind of took me down a bit of an emotional route because I was kind of in the lead all day and I just lost it on 18. Michelle made a great putt. I was on FaceTime with her and she was saying how proud of me she is, and you know, she was crying probably more than me today. But it's a bond, like that you just can't even think of. She's definitely my best friend.”
Charlotta Sorenstam picked off her lone LPGA win in the 2000 Standard Register Ping while Annika finished her career with 72 titles, third best in tour history. Among the prominent sisters who did not complete the Sibling Slam are Marlene Bauer Hagge, who had 26 wins, and Alice; Donna Caponi (24) Janet Caponi LePera; Danielle Ammaccapane (7) and Dina; Mardi Lunn (1) and Karen. Aree and Naree Song as well as Numa and Russy Gulyanamitta were all winless.
In a remarkable year in which the balance of talent on the LPGA has been abundantly clear it is somehow appropriate that history has been made not once but twice. There are a lot of great players in women’s golf right now and the Kordas are among them. On Sunday, half a world away from her big sister, Nelly proved she is one of them.