They were only two moments, captured by cell phones in front of a crowd that wasn’t that large. But they captured the essence of the event last week as well as affirming what LPGA Tour fans have believed about one of the game’s most endearing stars.
As she walked off the final green at the PNC Championship on Sunday, Nelly Korda signed every autograph and posed for every picture, something she does after almost every round she plays. Toward the end of the rope line, a young man who had been watching all day, asked if she would sign a glove. Sure, the Rolex Rankings No.1 player in the world said as she took the glove wrote her name. Then another patron of the event at The Ritz Carlton Golf Club in Orlando said, “Nelly, you’re the sweetest number-one ever.”
In a field that included Tiger Woods (who, along with his son Charlie, stole the show with their runner-up finish), David Duval, Gary Player, Tom Watson and Vijay Singh – all previously No.1, either by acclimation or in the official World Golf Rankings – this was high praise, indeed. But it came as no surprise to those who know Nelly.
She is intense inside the ropes and a softie when the round is done. Yell at her in the middle of a round and she might not even hear you. Ask her for an autograph, a photo, a golf ball or a moment of her time afterward and she couldn’t be more accommodating.
Casual fans, those who flocked to central Florida to see Tiger’s return after his horrific car crash in February but who might never have seen an LPGA Tour event, got an extra bonus out of Nelly and her father Petr, who shot 63-64 in the two-day scramble. Petr had all but given up golf after his daughters joined the LPGA Tour and his son, Sebi, became one of the best American tennis players in the world. But he put in a couple of months of work prior to the PNC and did not embarrass himself.
“I got to see him make a couple of birdies,” Nelly said after Sunday’s final round.
“It was very difficult. I was very nervous, I'm not going to hide it, especially before yesterday going around,” Petr said. “I called my old coach, Tony Pickard, and asked him not for (golf) advice but to calm me down.
“It was a great experience. I enjoyed every moment of it. It's easier to walk outside the ropes, which (is where) I believe I belong. But if we have one more chance in the future, I would love to do it again. Just being with Nelly and what she's bringing to the women's sport and women's golf and myself to be a part of it, what more can I ask.”
That brings up the other memorable moment of the event, one that golf fans found both revealing and totally relatable. On Saturday, Nelly and Petr, along with Sebi who caddied for his dad, waited around scoring for several groups until Tiger and Charlie finished their round. Then Nelly, red-faced and giddy, asked for a picture with the man she grew up watching but had never met before last week.
Nelly met Tiger for the first time. Her reaction says it all. 🤗 pic.twitter.com/Wn2yEFP42h— PGA TOUR Champions (@ChampionsTour) December 18, 2021
“I think I turned a little red. May be turning red right now,” Nelly said when recalling the moment. “No, I got to meet my idol growing up. I met him at the dinner the night prior. But it's been such a cool experience. I got to talk to him on the putting green before I went out today (Sunday) and I was just starstruck. It's really cool what he's done for the game and I just appreciate it.”
Many would say the same for Korda and what that family of athletes has done for women’s sports.
Of the week in Orlando, Nelly could not have been happier.
“I played with Lee Trevino today and then I played with John Daly yesterday, and, oh, my gosh, they still have so much game,” she said. “It's unbelievable. I got to play in an event with Tiger Woods and Charlie, who I've heard is just an amazing ball-striker.
“So, I just appreciate it more, and any type of way that I can help push women's golf forward, I feel like this is a great stage to do it on. I'm just a small part of it.”