When Sophia Howard landed at Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport (Florida) a few weeks ago, she exclaimed, “Oh my God, this is the home of Nelly Korda!”
Nelly liked that very much.
Howard, 14, flew to Florida from Hudsonville, Michigan to meet her idols Nelly and Jessica Korda as part of Dream On 3, a charity based in Charlotte, North Carolina. Howard, who was born without a right hand, met with the American stars at The Concession Golf Club for a special training session.
When the trio started talking, the Kordas realized that Howard lived near the Meijer LPGA Classic and invited them to their Tuesday training session. The brave Howard described the whole experience as surreal. The Kordas were reminded why they fell in love with the game in the first place.
“The longer you are out here you kind of forget how cool it is,” Jessica said. “To see it from someone else’s perspective is really something special.”
Howard said she and her father moved to an LPGA event about a year ago and happened to see Jessica Korda take a stunning shot. The cameras then switched to Nelly, who created something equally memorable. Howard, who also plays softball, immediately reached out to Google to find out more.
An aspiring freshman participating in junior adaptive tournaments in her area, Howard said high school golf begins August 9th.
“I might look different,” said Howard, “but I think I’m just a normal person. I go out and play golf like everyone else and I don’t let that stop me. Just go out there and kill it. “
Nelly said having Howard at the Meijer makes her even more appreciative of what she does for a living. Both sisters also left very impressed with Howard’s swing. They made headway above all from the bunker.
“I think we missed that too,” said Jessica, “where there are no fans or children outside week after week. That was probably taken for granted a bit. But that was something I’ve always liked to see. I loved being able to interact with the kids and giving them the memory that they either hold onto for a while or something that they might come back to in the next year and see afterwards. “
The Kordas could of course ask their parents Petr and Regina, both world-class tennis players, for an insight into life as professional athletes. But if they could have spent time with other sports stars as a kid, as Howard did with them, who would they choose?
“I love Roger, Nadal, Tiger,” said Nelly. “I know Jess would say Lindsay Vonn.”
Both Nelly and Jessica are LPGA winners this season and are in position to represent the United States at the Tokyo Olympics. Nelly is currently the top ranked American in 4th and Jessica is 13th. Only four Americans can qualify to participate, and they must all be in the top 15. Until the end of the qualification period on June 28th, two events are still out.
While they are not cheering their parents in Tokyo due to COVID-19, you will likely hear from Howard on their new text thread.
“She’s very bubbly and very happy,” said Nelly, “that definitely rubs off on you.”