LPGA Star Nelly Korda Talks About Her Journey and the Long Game
We wanted to find out how an elite athlete prepares for a game and asked Nelly Korda if she would tell us about her recent phenomenal success. In late March 2019, she surged up two spots to No. 6 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings, making her the highest-ranked American in the world.
At Exabeam we’re passionate about helping our customers be the best they can be at their jobs. That means learning new skills, being prepared, and taking advantage of the latest technology. While cybersecurity is perhaps far afield of golf, both endeavors require dedication and relentlessness. We thought we could learn a few things from how an elite athlete prepares.
That’s why we asked Nelly Korda if she would tell us about her recent phenomenal success. In late March 2019, she surged up two spots to No. 6 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings, making her the highest-ranked American in the world overtaking Lexi Thompson. And all that at the age of 20.
Updated November 4: Nelly Korda wins the Taiwan Swinging Skirts LPGA tournament two years in a row.
Exabeam: First, congrats on becoming the highest-ranked in women’s golf in the US! What do you think is the most important factor in your success so far?
Korda: Thank you for that, but I can only enjoy the moment. In today’s super-competitive world of golf, you never know what’s next, or who can take your spot in the rankings. I can actually see the parallels between golf and cybersecurity and it’s one of the reasons I was excited to partner with Exabeam as a sponsor this year. Cybersecurity looks like a very disciplined field where you have to be “on” all the time, to protect companies from hackers and threats. And it’s similar to golf where if I slip up for a moment and miss something, a competitor may sneak in. Like if I miss the fairway, there are no do-overs. I also like how Exabeam positions themselves as the “Smarter SIEM” company, too. How they are helping companies work smarter… as a competitive athlete, I have to work smarter to stay ahead, too.
Exabeam: You won the Sioux Falls GreatLIFE Challenge in 2016. Tell us about your journey to your first professional title.
Korda: Well, my journey started when I was a kid. We lived by a golf course and my sister Jessica started playing when my dad got into the sport when he retired. He took her out a couple of times and she got interested. I was always beside her playing with my plastic clubs, and that’s how it started for me.
Some people say I got to that high point at such a young age because of a rivalry with my sister. I laugh because we’re just sisters, and she gives me advice sometimes. There’s no sibling rivalry. I think my success in 2016 was really about consistency. The more consistent I am, the better I’m playing, so hopefully I continue that throughout this season, too. Having my sister around week-in and week-out helped me to relax during the rookie campaign. But this year I’m committed to trying to take things day by day and not get ahead of myself. Plus I want to get more comfortable with the life of a professional golfer—both on the course and off.
Exabeam: Tell our readers how you prepare for a tournament. What does your typical week look like?
Korda: Well, my approach is knowing what I’m going to do every week to prepare to play and have some structure to Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. That keeps my life off the wild roller coaster ride of tournament play. I try to make steady progress so it becomes a process rather than a constant worry about whether I’m hitting the ball well enough on that particular day. The goal is to make it more a mental workout, rather than a daily worry over this or that swing.
Exabeam: Competing in golf—like protecting networks against adversaries—requires a lot of mental focus. What do you do during the match to play smarter?
Korda: Being a top-10 player, expectations obviously go up, plus I’m only 20 years old, which makes it more of a challenge. So I try to stay calm. Being prepared and not worrying too much about perfection helps there. It’s helped me become less anxious going into each event.
Exabeam: Tell us a little more about what it means to play smart.
Korda: The best way to describe playing smart is having good information and using all the tools and resources you have. Like getting the most updated information from yardage books and green maps to learn as much as you can about the course. Next on my list would be having a good advisor such as your caddy by your side. And finally, thinking ahead with good course management by analyzing the course and picking shots that give you the best scoring opportunities. That includes knowing your best shots and ball flight and picking the ones you do well and avoiding your weaknesses. For instance, don’t try hitting a protected green with a high fade around some trees if you haven’t had much success with that shot.
Exabeam: Can you share how you stay ahead of the competition?
Korda: Golf is a mental game really like I said before. You can’t get upset with yourself or you will lose focus. Like, recently down at The Grange Golf Club in Australia, at the start, I bogeyed the first three holes, and it looked like I might not make the cut. But instead of letting myself get rattled, and worrying that maybe my swing would fall apart, I put all my focus in the swing and the goal and finished with seven final-round birdies.
Exabeam: What advice would you give to golf players that would work for both beginners or seasoned players?
Korda: Golf is a little like archery. If you focus on the target and let everything else fall away you are more likely to hit the green, chip on close to the hole, or sink the long puts. Just stay calm and forget the noise. I guess it’s easy for me because I’m just that way. When you can quiet your mind it’s like you can almost see the distance to the hole and put the ball where you want it.