Jessica Korda said it was something she always wanted to do.
But she was unsure when becoming a professional golfer would happen, based on the uncertainty awaiting her at LPGA Tour Q-School and the fact she’s still in high school.
Yet, Korda played well at Q-School.
So well that the budding golf superstar born and bred in Bradenton finished runner-up over the five-round tournament, giving her full-time status for the 2011 LPGA Tour season.
She succeeded even if the last round featured nearly unplayable conditions in the final round.
“It was wind at 31 miles per hour, rain and then cold into it,” Korda said. “It kind of broke one of our umbrellas; my umbrella was shutting down completely. I mean, I was being pushed by the wind on certain holes. It was not really fun.”
Korda announced her decision to turn pro almost immediately following her final round.
But it wasn’t as simple as when Tiger Woods left the amateur ranks for the pro game.
Korda needed a special age waiver from the LPGA Tour, which it granted shortly after the qualifying tournament ended, paving the way for the high school senior to live her dream.
That waiver, however, comes with one important wrinkle -- Korda cannot collect any money until after her 18th birthday on Feb. 27.
The LPGA Tour schedule hasn’t been released yet, and Korda said, based on last year’s schedule, the season won’t begin until March.
So she wouldn’t have to make up ground on the money list, if the LPGA Tour follows a similar schedule to the 2010 slate.
Getting through Q-School is the culmination of all the hard work Korda has put in over the past year.
She was the runner-up at the U.S. Women’s Amateur last summer, played on the winning U.S. Curtis Cup team and played the United States Women’s Open for a third time.
Korda also represented the United States in the World Amateur held in Buenos Aires.
But none of those tournament experiences or successes could prepare the 17-year-old for the pressure cooker of Q-School.
“Nothing prepares you for Q-School,” Korda said. “Nothing. I mean, of course you get certain stuff like handling pressure, playing more tournaments that kind of prepares you. But there is literally no way to prepare for Q-School. ... It’s so different from a regular tournament. You really have to pull everything out in those five days. It’s all or nothing.”
Now she finds herself back home catching up on schoolwork.
Korda began the year at Bradenton Prep before transferring to the IMG Academy School at IMG Academy.
“I’m actually trying to finish on time,” Korda said. “I just took two weeks off during Q-School. And now I’m just trying to catch up on my schoolwork.”
Magnus Karlsson coached Korda from 2002-06 before returning as her instructor in 2009 at the Ivan Lendl Champions Academy at the Longboat Key Club.
Korda oozes with talent Karlsson said he’s never seen from a 17-year-old before.
But no matter long off the tee she is and how sharp her game is, Korda and Karlsson came up with an important decision to get her through the final stage of Q-School. That was preparing Korda’s game for the cold and windy conditions sure to wreak havoc on the field in Daytona Beach.
A lower ball flight was needed to combat the elements. Karlsson said the work toward a more penetrating ball flight started about a month prior to the all-important tourney.
A concern, though, if there could be with a golfer as skilled as Korda, is the potential burnout factor that comes with young golfers.
But with the pedigree of her famous father, former tennis pro Petr, Jessica Korda gets the rest when she needs it.
“It’s important for Jessica to totally get away from golf,” said Karlsson, who began teaching in 1999. “She’s obviously had a very, very tough year behind her now, which started in almost November of last year. And she’s gone all the way until now, so it’s kind of been 14 months of pretty much playing competitive golf.”
Karlsson said her parents’ background at a professional life helps Korda avoid getting worn out, because they’re sensitive toward that area.
That plus what Karlsson sees from her on the practice tee and the fewer tournaments on the LPGA Tour compared to a typical PGA Tour season are all factors in guiding Korda away from a potential burnout.
So while she’ll need to wait to find out what the LPGA Tour schedule is, the rest of the veteran players should take notice, because Korda is ready for a successful rookie year despite her young age.