Nelly Korda is headed to the LPGA Tour.
Korda, an 18-year-old Bradenton resident, fired a final-round 66 at the Symetra Tour Championship in Longwood on Sunday to finish in a three-way tie for sixth and jump from 12th to ninth on the final money list. The top 10 finishers on the list earned their LPGA Tour cards for the 2017 season.
With the promotion, Korda fulfills her dream of joining her older sister, Jessica, on the elite women’s tour.
“It has been a dream of mine since I played the U.S. Open in 2013,” Korda said. “And to be alongside my sister now and to get to play with her next year is just a dream come true, and I can’t wait.”
Neither can her older sister, who was in South Korea, where she finished tied for 18th at the Hana Bank Championship on Sunday. On Monday morning, she tweeted her reaction: “When you wake up and this becomes your reality! Nelly, I am so freaking proud of you. ♥ I cannot WAIT for next year #dreamteam #shemadeit”
Veteran LPGA Tour player Christina Kim also took note of the significance, tweeting: “Next year will have another pair of sisters on tour. So many congratulations @NellyKorda-you made it! @Thejessicakorda must be so proud.”
Nelly Korda finished at 10-under 274, eight shots behind the winner, Nicole Broch Larsen, who prevailed in a one-hole playoff with Ally McDonald, at Alaqua Country Club. The event was moved to the course in Longwood when Hurricane Matthew left the traditional site in Daytona Beach unplayable.
Korda entered the final round tied for 16th and nine shots back as well as five shots behind Laura Gonzalez Escallon, who entered 11th on the money list. She was two shots ahead of Erica Popson, who held the 10th and last qualifying spot on the list.
Korda started slowly Sunday, birdieing the par-3 second hole before carding five pars. A birdie on the par-4 eighth got her to 7-under.
As she had all tournament, Korda made her move on the back nine, birdieing three holes in a row (Nos. 11-13) to get to 10-under par. The 13th hole was key for Korda: She played it 5-under par for the tournament, including an eagle in Friday’s second round. She bogeyed the par-3 15th before getting the shot back on the par-4 17th. Korda had bogeyed the 17th on Friday and Saturday. She finished by parring the 18th hole. For the week, she was 8-under on the back nine.
“I was very emotional today,” Korda said. “I was more nervous on that hole (the 18th) than I was to win in Sioux Falls. I was telling myself to ‘calm down, calm down’ so I played really well today. I had one bogey, but other than that it was very solid. I was making a lot of putts, and I’m glad they all came today.”
Her 66 was the second-lowest score of the day. Tour money leader Madelene Sagstrom shot a 64 to vault into fourth place.
“It was definitely a nerve-wracking day,” Korda said. “But I was happy I got it done and played well.”
Korda was paired Sunday with Madison Pressel, the 24-year-old younger sister of LPGA veteran Morgan Pressel, and Kristy McPherson, a 35-year-old veteran of the LPGA Tour (since 2007) and the Symetra Tour (since 2003). McPherson finished tied for 16th at 4-under after a final-round 72. Pressel finished tied for 46th after a final-round 80.
After the round, McPherson tweeted: “Very impressed playing w @NellyKorda today. I love when someone knows they need a great round and step up and do it! Fun to watch! Good kid!”
Korda and Escallon were the two players outside of the top 10 entering the week to earn their cards. Escallon shot a final-round 67 to earn $14,007 and jump from 11th to fifth on the money list. Korda earned $6,224 for her finish, giving her a roughly $3,500 cushion on Clarisse Guce in 11th.
Sunday’s sixth-place finish was Korda’s seventh top-10 finish of the season, her first on the Symetra Tour. All seven have come since mid-June. She earned her first pro victory on Sept. 1 at the Sioux Falls GreatLIFE Challenge in South Dakota. She made 19 starts this year.
“The players out here are really good and the competition is very, very good. I definitely learned a lot and I’m grateful for everything that I’ve been through on the Symetra Tour.”
Note: The Golf Channel announced on Twitter Sunday night that Nelly Korda would be a guest on the network’s Morning Drive program Monday.
Symetra Tour Money list