PLAINFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — On the final day of the Meijer LPGA Classic, Nelly Korda just wanted to slow things down for a minute.
This isn’t her first rodeo when it comes to playing for a LPGA Tour title on Sunday. In fact, she was going for her fifth championship and second of the year in that category.
In the past however, she had a hard time finding a balance between all the stress that comes with competing at the top of the leaderboard and simply enjoying the game she loves.
On the last day, she was able to enjoy the game she loves and playing on a Sunday.
Whatever it was, it worked. And as a result: She left Blythefield Country Club with more hardware for her trophy case.
Korda didn’t just win the 2021 tournament, she owned it. The 22-year-old set a scoring record, going 25 under par after going -4 in the final round on Father’s Day. This all came after she didn’t make the cut at the U.S. Open.
It was an unbelievable way to bounce back — one Korda didn’t even see coming herself.
“If you told me at the U.S. Open that I was going to shoot 25 under (at the Meijer LPGA Classic), I would be like yeah right,” Korda said with a laugh. “I did a good bit of work back home and my dad was at every practice. I just worked on the right stuff and didn’t put too much pressure on myself this week, which I did at the U.S. Open.
“At the end of the day, it’s just golf. I kept telling myself that all day.”
That was hard to do at times on Sunday, Korda admitted. There was a spot on hole eight where she shot with the crowd surrounding her, landed in a bunker but was still able to finish the hole with a par. Her main opponent Leona Maguire, who played outstanding herself finishing -23, missed a birdie putt by inches, which was huge.
Following that on hole 12, Korda bogeyed the par 4 and suddenly, it was a one stroke game again between her and Magurie (-22 to -21).
That’s when she locked in. Following a par 3, the Bradenton, Florida native got her first eagle of the weekend on hole 14, which put her ahead by two strokes from Maguire. She followed on 15, a par 3, with another birdie on a 12-foot putt. It started to appear Korda was pulling away from the pack.
Until it all changed in one hole.
With a three-stroke lead, Korda botched a makeable short putt on hole 16 for par, which led to a bogey. Maguire took advantage and was able to knock home a 10-foot birdie putt. It was suddenly -24 to -23 with two holes to go.
“It was a really good back and forth battle between Leona and I because she kept me on my toes,” Korda said. “It was fun, and she played well, she was a really quality opponent and hopefully, people were entertained. I didn’t start the day off well, I just told myself to stay in it and let it play itself out.”
It worked out in her favor.
After both Maguire and Korda pared hole 17, a par 5 awaited the pair on hole 18. After Maguire went off into the rough on her drive, Korda planted it 350-plus down the fairway. It was a straight up rocket off her club, as she held her pose for about 10 seconds after making contact with the ball. It felt like Korda had the advantage.
Maguire ended up with a phenomenal approach shot over the trees in the rough that landed on the front of the green. Meanwhile, Korda sent her shot near the left, front bunker where it sat right on the lip of the grass and made for a tough lie. The drama was back on with thousands circling the final hole.
“Right as I hit it, I was like, ‘Oh no,’” Korda said. “I didn’t have a good shot, I had one foot in the bunker and had to grip down on the shaft. I just thought I had to find a way to give myself a birdie opportunity.”
She did just that, sending a low chip past the hole by about 7 feet. She would knock in the putt to win the tournament. Watching that ball go in for the win was an unmatched feeling.
“This is actually the first time I made a putt to win, so that felt nice too,” Korda said. “The fans gave me a lot of confidence and were saying my name, it’s just a special day to me.”
On top of there being a record setting crowd at the Meijer LPGA Classic, Korda’s boyfriend, former Grand Rapids Griffin and Red Wing Andreas Athanasious, was in attendance for the first time ever at one of her wins.
After the final putt went down and her sister, Jessica Korda, dumped champagne on her, Athanasious raced out to the green to give her a hug.
It wasn’t easy to watch for the current NHL player, but he was so happy to see the results.
“Watching is so much different than playing,” Athanasious said. “I have so much anxiety on every shot, I’m so worried, being in the moment is so much easier, but she played so well and I’m so happy for her.”
For Korda, this was something so unimaginable that it felt too good to be true when it was all over. Yet, it was reality.
At such a young age, Korda has already won five championships on tour and has been climbing golf’s Rolex Rankings for a while. But setting a scoring record at a place she loves in Michigan felt unique to her.
“Every week is a little different but right now, I couldn’t be happier with how I finished here,” Korda said. “I need to get ready for KPMG next week and hopefully I can carry what I did here into next week.”
One thing is for certain, her name will be said when the Meijer LPGA Classic is brought up for a long time.