Inspiration Abounds As Korda Sisters Welcome Local Teenager

It started as do many LPGA fan relationships. By accident. According to 14-year-old Sophia Howard, “I turned the TV on maybe about a year or two ago. My dad and I like to watch the PGA Tour. But it just so happened that the LPGA was on. If I am correct, Jessica (Korda) was up and she made a sweet chip from probably like 100 or so yards and I was like, ‘Holy cow, that was phenomenal.’”

But Howard’s first impressions were not through.

“They switched to Nelly (Korda) and she made a huge putt from like, I don't even know, like ten yards. And I was like, ‘Holy cow, these girls are good.’

“So, I kept watching and they just kept making awesome shots. After I was done, I searched them a little bit, kind of watched their stats, went on the LPGA website and watched their interviews and some of the highlights. And I just fell in love with those girls' personalities and the way they play the game of golf.”

At the time, Howard didn’t think about meeting the Kordas. Nor did she even think about how she was different from the LPGA Tour sisters she had come to idolize. They were all golfers. That was enough.

Howard was born without a right hand. Given her physical differences, her golf swing is amazing.

Enter the Dream On 3 Foundation, a North Carolina-based non-profit that helps children living with life-altering conditions realize their full potential.

“We actually got contacted by Dream On 3 Foundation and I guess one of (Sophia’s) dreams was to meet us,” Jessica Korda said. “We found a time where it worked for everyone, which was awesome.”

That time came earlier this year in Bradenton, Fla. where Nelly lives and plays at Concession Club. Dream On 3 flew Sophia to Florida where she played a round with both sisters.

“It was a lot of fun,” Nelly said. “She was saying when she flew into Sarasota, ‘Oh, my God, this is the home of Nelly Korda,’ which I thought was really funny. She's super nice, super spunky. We had a lot of fun at Concession and we played the par-3 course.”

When asked about Sophia’s game, Nelly said, “It's good. I'm actually really impressed with her swing. You know, it just shows that if you put your mind to whatever you want, you can do just about anything. And she also plays softball, so she’s very athletic.”

Jessica chimed in by saying, “This is the reason why I love playing golf. We were her when we were little. So, getting to play with one of your idols is always something really, really cool. And then just seeing the love for the game, the love for being out here and seeing her bright eyes taking everything in.

“The longer you're out here, you kind of forget how cool that is. To see it from someone else's perspective is really special.”

As they played the round at Concession, the sisters learned Sophia was from Hudsonville, Mich., not far from Blythefield Country Club in Grand Rapids.

“We were talking, and I was like, ‘Yeah, you should come up for the tournament if possible,’” Jessica said. “I thought it would be really cool not only to play with us, but to see what it's like during a practice round out here.”

That reunion happened on Tuesday. As the Kordas prepped for the Meijer Classic, they were joined inside the ropes by one of their biggest fans.

“Honestly, I think it's just really inspiring to see her personality shine through and how motivated she is to play sports and interact with people,” Nelly said. “She's very spunky and very happy and it definitely rubs off on you.”

The feeling was mutual.

“It's surreal to me knowing that my idols take time out of their day to come chat with me,” Sophia said. “That's very eye-opening, saying that my idols are willing to take time out of their busy days to have a conversation, whether in person or on the phone.”

Sophia doesn’t see herself as different. She’s a golfer, an athlete and a fan who inspires and is inspired by others. It is that attitude, not her physical appearance, that makes her special.

“I may look different, but I think I'm just another average person,” she said. “I go out and play the game of golf how everybody else does. And I don't let [my physical difference] stop me. Just go out and kill it.

“It takes a little push to get yourself out there. But once you do, you'll find out that it's not a huge deal. You're just like everyone else. Eventually, if you keep pushing yourself, people who have a different physical appearance will realize that it doesn't matter.

“We look this way and maybe we play differently. But we can still be good. We can still be at this level and still be winning tournaments.”