BELLEAIR — Jessica Korda got the kind of start she was looking for in the first round of the LPGA Tour’s Pelican Women’s Championship on Thursday.
But a 7:21 a.m. tee time, which brought chilly weather in the morning and gusty winds on the greens in the afternoon, didn’t make it an easy outing for the Bradenton resident, who shot 1-under 69 at the Pelican Golf Club.
“Definitely pleased with an under-par score,” said Korda, who was in a group of nine players five shots behind leader Sophia Popov. That group included Seminole native and Gulfport resident Brittany Lincicome.
“Obviously left some out there, but saved a lot as well. When the wind started to pick up, it definitely made it really tough, especially, there are some small greens on that back nine and a lot of runoffs, and it’s gusting.”
The wind and cool weather made driving more difficult, Korda said, and the firmer ground made approach shots trickier than usual.
“It’s a guessing game,” Korda said. “And then you have to carry over hazards and it’s more of a guessing game. So it just adds a little bit more stress to our already stressful game.”
Korda’s round included a bogey and a birdie on the first two holes, back-to-back birdies on Nos. 13 and 14, and a bogey on No. 16.
Korda has five career victories since joining the tour in 2012. Ranked 26th in the world, she has three top-15 finishes in nine events this year, none of them wins.
Korda, 27, was supposed to play this weekend with her younger sister, Nelly, who is ranked No. 3 in the world, making her the highest-ranked American player. Nelly, 22, has three career wins and this year has four top-10 finishes, including a tie for second at the major ANA Inspiration. But she had to withdraw this week due to a back injury.
“I’m sad she’s not here,” Korda said. “It’s weird playing practice rounds without her. We always try to make sure that we play together.”
Typically, the sisters bounce ideas off each other and hit on the driving range together. “We’re always there for each other, no matter what,” Korda said. “We play very similarly … so we have good visuals together.”
Unlike at other events, playing close to home gives Korda’s parents the opportunity to watch her play in person. They can make the hour-long drive from home and not have to worry about hotels or what to do when Korda isn’t playing.
The sisters’ father, Petr Korda, is a retired pro tennis player who won the 1998 Australian Open.
“It’s nice having family out,” Korda said. “(Golf is) such a lonely sport, very individual, so having any kind of family is always so nice.”