KINGSMILL, Va | It’s not an uncommon refrain. At the Kingsmill Marina, a waterfront restaurant on the James River with a tasty grilled mahi and some sweet Atlantic oysters, the night manager asked a group of late diners who was leading on Saturday. At the time, the answer was Moriya and Wei-Ling Hsu.
“Oh,” she said. “I like the sisters.”
“Which ones?” someone asked.
“The Kordas. I don’t really follow golf at all. They’re the only ones I know. But I really like them.”
No one was surprised. Jessica and Nelly Korda have become transcendent figures, celebrities who are recognized by people who don’t know a birdie from a buoy. And there were a fair number of those people at Kingsmill, boaters and floaters who paddled or swam up to the edge of the River Course to see the action, even though they knew almost none of the players. However, when Korda arrived in the final group on Sunday, shouts of “Jess,” rang out from the shallow end.
By then, Korda was a couple of shots back of eventual winner, Hsu, so it was tough for her to get excited about the fan support. “I didn't make any putts today and that was the biggest difference, obviously,” she said. “The greens are just baked. The whole place is baked. So, it was a little tough to be aggressive, especially when you're chasing and you kind of need to be.”
Korda, who began the final round a shot off the lead, shot 1-under par 70 on Sunday to finish alone in third, three behind Hsu and one behind . With only one birdie on the front nine, it was difficult for Korda to make any sort of move. But birdies at 15 and 17 made it interesting until Hsu’s tee shot found land on 18, at which point it was effectively over.
“It was almost like a little bit of a match play (situation) because I think I was one or two back,” Korda said. “I don't remember. I was like, okay, I need to put some pressure on her a little bit coming in. But it just didn't happen.
“But these days happen. I've had a second and a third the last two weeks, so I'm trending.”
That trend has moved her into the fourth spot on the U.S. Olympic team , a goal that has been on Korda’s mind all year. She is finally healthy and pain free. With one win already in 2021, she is looking ahead to the U.S. Women’s Open and a busy major-championship schedule as well as the upcoming Solheim Cup.
“I'm proud of myself for continuing to put myself up there,” Korda said. “(My caddie) Kyle (Bradley) and I have been doing a lot of good work. This week was a little bit of guessing. We had a lot of wedges and the ground is firm, and numbers weren't the same. So, we are very, very tired. There was a lot of thinking going into this whole week. But now, I'm excited for U.S. Open.”
So are the fans, serious and otherwise, who will be chanting Jessica’s name in San Francisco and beyond.