Jessica Korda has been a force on the LPGA Tour since playing the U.S. Women's Open at 15. She joined the tour in 2011 and scored her first professional win at the 2012 Women's Australian Open, beating out five other women in a playoff. Korda has collected three more LPGA Tour wins since then, most recently the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia. After a rocky 2015 following a coaching change and a swing change, the 22-year-oldKorda is ready to start fresh in 2016.
How would you rate your 2015 performance?
I would say that last season was a struggle, a little bit of a learning curve. A lot of stuff going on off the course. Obviously winning in Malaysia was a highlight and definitely saved the season in my eyes, and from then I think the results were a lot better. But I definitely didn't play up to what I think I should've been playing.
What was your biggest challenge last year?
I was going through some swing changes at the beginning of the season and they didn't agree with the way that I've worked, so I had to step back and kind of figure out what it is that I am, and where my swing needs to be and where I need to be mentally. I had a coach change as well, and just applying those things actually did end up helping me at the end of the season. It started to settle in a little bit more.
Were you discouraged?
It was very hard. I had a great season the season before, and I had really high expectations going into the year. Not only myself, but I think the media did as well, my friends and my family. Having the season I did, it was hard. You know, you've seen a lot of people disappear from the game having seasons like that. So I think I was very aware of everything and I have a great support system that never gave up on me, even when I was slowly starting to. They always believed in me and I think that's what helped me turn it around.
So what are you looking forward to in 2016?
I love going to the places that we get to travel to. I have a great group of friends out here, we get on really well and we just have a ton of fun. There's a lot more of my generation of girls coming out on Tour, so it's fun to see all my friends out. And you know, just play some great golf. My goals are really high this year, and I'm just looking to reach them. Some of my goals would definitely be the Olympics, contending in majors ... that's something that I was not very good at last year [Laughs]. I think I missed every single cut in the majors last year and that was very tough for me.
What do you think the Olympics will do for the game of golf?
I mean, watching the Olympics just brings a whole other dimension. More people watching [golf], some people that wouldn't usually sit down and watch golf. I think it's going to be really great. I don't think I've ever missed and Olympics, watching on TV. My mom played in the Olympics and it would just be really cool to be there. But I think the exposure that the men and the women are going to get is just going to be really, really great.
How are you going to prepare for a shot at representing the U.S. in Rio?
Play better. That's all I gotta do. I gotta play better, move myself up those Rolex Rankings, and hopefully by the time that the cutoff comes, I'll be inside. It's a dream, and either if it happens this year -- great, if not, there's another Olympics.
If you had to choose between a major title, a Solheim Cup and a gold medal, what would you choose?
That's such a hard question because growing up, you never dreamed that you could play in the Olympics. You always just watched it cause golf was never in it, so it was never something that you dreamed of as a little girl. So I think in that way, I'd say a major. That's the reason why I'm playing professional golf is because I got the taste of it when I was 15 -- played in my first U.S. Women's Open -- and I was hooked ever since.
While we're talking about majors, is it time for the women to have a Masters?
I think it would be awesome to play Augusta National -- I walked the grounds last year. But in terms of tournaments one to one that we have, our ANA Inspiration, that's our Masters. It's an incredible golf course and it's really, really beautiful. It has the history. You take the plunge into Poppy's Pond at the end of your win, and I think that's our Masters. If we can get an event out there, that would be amazing too.
You've got a pretty large social media following and you're really active on Instagram and Twitter. Is that something that's becoming more and more of a tool for your generation to help grow the game?
For me, personally, social media is very important. I like giving my fans kind of a background view of what we do, because when we're on the golf course, it might look very serious and everybody's like, "Oh, well who's friends with who?" and "What are you guys doing apart from the golf course?" I want them to be able to get to know me and see that I am a person, I have other interests. Golf is something that we do and it's a lot of fun, and hopefully that inspires a little girl or a little boy to pick up the game of golf. Even somebody older to just go and have fun! So, I love social media. I try to keep up with it as much as I can and give as much information and pictures as I can.
How else do you as a player grow the game?
That's a really hard question because we try to grow the game as much as we can, and it's going slowly. And it is working its way up. My rookie year , we weren't sure if we were going to have any more events. I think we had 21 events. Now we have 34. The purses are getting bigger. I feel, personally, like our following is getting bigger, more people recognize you. Mike Whan is doing an incredible job with his team at the LPGA. I think social media definitely is helping because it's putting our names out there, but as long as we can kind of keep up and inspire some people to come and play and watch us, that's all that we can do. It is slowly growing and it's great to see.
If there's one thing you can take away from your time on the LPGA so far, what would that be?
One thing I'd take away is the friendships that I've made. I have, like I said, a great group of girls that we love to hang out together. The competition out there is great with them too, lots of side bets going on! [Laughs] It's just a lot of fun being able to step away from the game and have those friends.