By Karen Billing
At the Rancho Santa Fe Golf Club last week, Nelly Korda of Bradenton, Fla., played a brilliant final two rounds to pull away from the pack at the Yani Tseng Invitational presented by the Swinging Skirts. The win was her first American Junior Golf Association Invitational victory and comes a month after a runner-up finish at the Rolex Girls Junior Championship. Her 10-under-par 206 was spurred by back-to-back 4-under-par 68s to close the Invitational.
“To win it on this beautiful golf course and in front of Yani, I’m speechless,” said Korda, the number 13 player in the Polo Golf Rankings. “I went after every pin; I was very aggressive today. No matter what, I wanted to leave it all out there. I didn’t want to have any regrets that I didn’t go after a pin so I just went after everything and it worked.”
Korda’s victory earned her an exemption into the 2016 Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic where she will compete against her older sister Jessica, a LPGA Tour professional.
“I’m psyched (to compete in the 2016 Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic),” said Korda. “I’m going to be competing with the best players in the world and with my sister so I can’t wait.”
Haley Moore of Escondido, Calif., finished in second place and set a course record with a first-round 6-under-par 66. Andrea Lee of Hermosa Beach tied for third place with Mariel Galdiano of Pearl City, Hawaii, and Angel Yin of Arcadia.
The tournament was named in honor of Yani Tseng, a LPGA Tour professional who is the youngest ever to win five major championships. Tseng has Rancho Santa Fe roots—RSF Golf Club member Ernie Huang met Tseng through AJGA’s trips to Taiwan and invited her to come play in the Junior World Championships in San Diego. She spent many summers with her host family in Rancho Santa Fe as a young golfer.
“When I began golfing, I dreamed to be number one,” Tseng said. “To be back in Rancho Santa Fe feels like home.”
Huang worked with AJGA and Swinging Skirts to bring the tournament to Rancho Santa Fe. Huang complimented the players on their level of play, adding that she never shot under par on the course when she was 12.
“It was very exciting to watch you guys play, the players make it very special for us,” Tseng said, noting the long-hitting Nelly reminds her a lot of her sister Jessica.
Tseng also complimented the top-notch course and the hospitality provided by the club — she said the food is better than what they get on the LPGA tour.