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Jessica Korda chose golf over tennis

Jessica Korda watches her drive on the first

Jessica Korda watches her drive on the first hole during the final round of the Mobile Bay LPGA Classic golf tournament at the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail at Magnolia Grove in Mobile, Ala. (May 19, 2013) Photo Credit: AP

PITTSFORD, N.Y. - -- Jessica Korda is not sure where it stands on the karma/coincidence scale. She does know that Australia has been a colossally memorable spot for her family. Not that she remembers much about it, though.

She was there when her father, Petr, then one of the top tennis players in the world, won the 1998 Australian Open. Being 5 at the time, though, not a whole lot of the experience sunk in.

Jessica, having become a teenage pro from Bradenton, Fla., was back in Australia in February of last year for the ISPS Handa Australian Open. At 18, she became the fourth-youngest winner of a 72-hole LPGA tournament by enduring a six-way playoff that included American stars Stacy Lewis and Brittany Lincicome. Korda does not recall much of that, either, because her nerves were in such overdrive. In fact, she says now that she basically forgot to breathe.

"If I didn't have Brittany standing there next to me and telling me to breathe and holding me up," she said, "I might have just face planted on the green. It was definitely really stressful and I can't believe I did it."

Chances are, Korda will hold tight to all the sights, sounds and feelings at the U.S. Women's Open at Sebonack Golf Club in Southampton at the end of this month. She is as excited about that as she has been about anything in a while because her 14-year-old sister, Nelly, will be in the field with her, having qualified recently at Bear Lakes in West Palm Beach, Fla.

"That was amazing. I'm so proud of her," the older sister, now 20, said. "I'm definitely so excited about how she's going to do and the new experiences she's going to be able to build off of."

Referring to tournament week, she added, "We're going to play together Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. She's on her own from then on."

But not really. Nelly Korda always has a mentor at home. "I'm more of like, I would say the life coach: 'You see my mistakes? Don't do that,'" Jessica said.

There have not been a whole lot of missteps for the older Korda sister, who speaks Czech, spent summers in the Czech Republic (her parents' home country) until she was 15 but is otherwise all American, a likely candidate for the U.S. Solheim Cup team this year.

Like many American kids, Korda was interested in gymnastics and figure skating, even after her mom started taking her to the driving range when she was 5.

"I didn't get into golf until I was 8 years old," she said after a solid 2-under par 70 Friday in the first round of the Wegmans LPGA Championship, the second women's major of the season. "I started to play a lot more, my friends were in it. So it was a very easy transformation to a golfer from a gymnast. My sister kind of just grew up around me going to the golf course. So if mom was coming, my sister would have to tag along. She'd start hitting golf balls and really liked it."

Neither of them is much on serves and volleys. "Well, I can only speak for myself. I'm not sure what she's doing when I'm not home. But I definitely don't play," the 20-year-old golf pro said. "I'm an avid watcher of tennis, not an avid player."

There is every reason to believe that, like her father, she will win a major championship. Like him, she withstood the heat of competition in Australia, even if she really does not know if there was a connection. Her family wasn't there to see her. "Everybody was in Florida, watching [online] live scoring at about 3 in the morning," she said.

The family will all be together at Sebonack in three weeks for an occasion none of them will forget.


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