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Looking back at Nelly Korda’s breakout year on the LPGA Tour

Nelly Korda of Team United States celebrates with the gold medal at the victory ceremony after the final round of the Women’s Individual Stroke Play on day fifteen of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Kasumigaseki Country Club on August 07, 2021 in Kawagoe, Japan. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

Before 2021, many would have said that golfer Nelly Korda already had her break year on the LPGA Tour.

In 2019, the 23-year-old from Bradenton, Florida, made the cut in 19 out of 20 events, had a career best 12 top-ten finishes, won two LPGA tournaments and passed the $3 million mark in career earnings in just her third year on tour. That’s pretty tough to beat. And yet in 2021, after a pandemic-riddled 2020 season, Nelly Korda has been on a tear, making the leap from potential superstar to the undisputed No. 1 player in the game.

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Warren Little/Getty Images

After finishing in third behind her older sister Jessica Korda, who took first at the Tournament of Champions to kick off the year, Korda won the first full-field tour competition of 2021 at the Gainbridge Championship by a three-stroke margin. Throughout the spring tour, she earned a handful of top ten finishes, including a tie for third at the first major of the year, the ANA Inspiration in Palm Springs. In early June, she hit an unwelcome speed bump by not making the cut for the US Women’s Open for the second year in a row. To say she had a strong rebound after this disappointment would be putting it lightly.

Within a two-month period from mid-June to early August, Korda won another LPGA tournament (the Meijer LPGA Classic), her first LPGA Major (the Women’s PGA Championship), the gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics, and became the top ranked women’s golfer in the world, the first American to do so since 2014. 

Not a bad summer.

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Nelly Korda poses with the trophy following the final round of the Gainbridge LPGA. (Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)

Winning that first major title is a moment pro golfers never forget if they are lucky enough to experience it. Korda’s Women’s PGA Championship in June came via a second round 11-under 63 and two eagles in the fourth round to beat fellow American Lizette Salas by three strokes. In Japan a little over a month later, Korda went into the fourth round of the Olympics with a three-stroke lead only to see it slip away on the front nine before building it back up with three straight birdies on the back nine. With two holes left for the final two groups, play was paused for a one-hour storm delay. Luckily for Korda, Jessica was also on Team USA and had already finished her final round, so the sisters chatted and kept things light during the wait. 

After play resumed, Korda approached the 18th tee box in a tie for first with Mone Inami of Japan who was in the group ahead. But then Inami bogied the final hole, cracking open the door for gold. In one of the highest pressure moments of her career, Korda was able to hold par on the 18th and finish with a one-stroke victory and solitary claim to the Olympic gold medal. 

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Korda celebrates winning gold at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

“For her to be doing what she’s doing, it’s insane to me,” Jessica Korda said of her sister. “This is like total GOAT status to me. To win three times in a season, be world No. 1, going for gold.”

 “The last 18 months have truly been a whirlwind,” Korda told Just Women’s Sports. “But to come out of such an uncertain time playing the best golf of my career, and to win my first major championship, become World No. 1 and win an Olympic gold medal all in the last few months is more than I ever could have dreamed.”

What makes Korda’s amazing run even more exciting is that there’s still so much of the season left. There are eight remaining individual LPGA tournaments up for grabs, as well as this weekend’s Solheim Cup, where she and Jessica will team up for the United States for the second time this year. 

Despite all the accolades, Korda appears to be approaching the rest of 2021 with a very level head. As she prepared for the final major of the year (the AIG Women’s Open) upon returning from Japan, she demonstrated her commitment to staying balanced by opting out of the pre-tournament press conference to get extra rest and work out some kinks at the range. Later at the tournament, when asked about the pressure that accompanies the number one world ranking, Korda replied, “Obviously there’s expectations, but you just try to settle down and keep your head down and go with the flow.” 

Her historic hot streak may have cooled a bit as Korda finished the AIG Women’s Open in a tie for 13th, but at just 23 years old and with a chance to once again make her mark at the the Solheim Cup, it’s clear that both her year — and her reign — are far from over. 

Cameron Brink likes Caitlin Clark for 2024 WNBA Rookie of the Year

Cameron Brink poses with Caitlin Clark at 2024 wnba draft in new york
Cameron Brink poses with fellow draftee — and possible WNBA ROY —Caitlin Clark. (Photo by Emily Johnson/NBAE via Getty Images)

Cameron Brink already has her rookie of the year pick for the upcoming WNBA season, and it’s Indiana-bound star Caitlin Clark

In the latest edition of Kelley on the Street, host Kelley O'Hara caught up with Brink in New York hours before the Stanford phenom went No. 2 overall to the Los Angeles Sparks at the 2024 WNBA Draft. When O’Hara asked who would win the WNBA's rookie of the year, she answered without pause.

"Caitlin Clark," she said, while a fan commented that she thought Brink would take home the award. Brink later added that the extra foul granted to WNBA players will be "good for me."

"I hope it’s me," Charisma Osborne, who was later drafted by the Phoenix Mercury, said when asked her ROY prediction. "But, I don’t know — we’ll see."

Watch more of Kelley on the Street:

Dash winger Maria Sanchez confirms trade request a day shy of NWSL deadline

María Sanchez of Houston Dash during a NWSL game
In December, Sanchez signed a new three-year contract with the club worth $1.5 million including bonuses and an option year. (Photo by Marcus Ingram/Getty Images)

Maria Sanchez issued a statement on Thursday, confirming recent reports that she has requested a trade from the Houston Dash. 

In it, she revealed that the club has been aware of the request "since late March."

"This has all taken a toll and isn’t an easy thing to talk about, but I want to confirm that I’ve requested an immediate trade," she wrote. "My expectations and reasons have been clear. I trust that my current club’s management will honor my decision in a timely manner and proceed with accepting a trade."

"I’m eager to refocus and dive back into what I love most: playing football," she concluded.

Reports of Sanchez's trade request first surfaced on ESPN last week, and were later confirmed by multiple sources. 

In December of last year, Sanchez signed a three-year contract with the Dash valued at $1.5 million including bonuses and an option year. It was the largest contract in NWSL history at the time — a figure that would be eclipsed by multiple contracts in the following months. 

Sanchez spent the offseason as a restricted free agent, meaning that Houston could match any other team's offer to retain her rights. Should the Dash trade Sanchez, her current contract terms would remain intact, limiting potential buyers to teams able to afford to take on an inking of that size.

The Dash has yet to address the trade, instead reiterating to ESPN that Sanchez is "under contract, a choice she made in free agency at the end of 2023." 

Both the NWSL trade window and transfer window close tonight, April 19th, at 12 a.m. ET. The window will stay closed through the next 11 regular season games, reopening on August 1st, 2024.

Seattle Storm debut state-of-the-art $64 million practice facility

Jewell Loyd #24 of the Seattle Storm during warms up during practice on July 11, 2020 at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida
Jewell Loyd, seen here practicing at Florida's IMG Academy, and her team are in for a major upgrade this season. (Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images)

The four-time league champion Seattle Storm unveiled their new practice facility on Thursday, with Storm co-owner Lisa Brummel dubbing Interbay's Seattle Storm Center for Basketball Performance the team’s "new home."

"It's just such a special space," Brummel told Fox 13 Seattle. "I think when the players get here, it's gonna be overwhelming."

The sprawling 50,000-square-foot, $64 million property is just the second designated practice facility to be designed and built expressly for a WNBA team, with the Storm further noting that 85% of all design and engineering team members involved in the project's construction were women and people of color. The finished product holds two professional indoor courts, two 3x3 outdoor courts, a state-of-the-art locker room, and players' lounge, plus designated areas for strength and conditioning, kitchen, dining, and nutrition, and recovery. 

"This facility reflects our commitment to providing our athletes an exceptional environment that supports their growth, health, and performance," said Storm co-owner Ginny Gilder in an official team release. "It’s built for women, by women, embodying our dedication to leading the way in professional women’s sports."

For their part, the team can't wait to make the faciilty their own.

"It's amazing," Storm guard Jewell Loyd told Fox 13. "Not having to drive everywhere around, knowing you have access anytime of the day to get into the gym, to workout." 

Head coach Noelle Quinn said she predicts the team is "never going to leave this building."

"Which is a good thing for me," she continued. "You talk about having an edge in performance. We want our athletes to not only perform on the court, but get whatever they need."

All of the Storm's staff and operations will now live under one roof, and the team also has plans to launch a youth basketball program operating out of the building.

Mystics relocate game to accommodate Caitlin Clark fans

Maya Caldwell, Erica Wheeler, and Lexie Hull of the Indiana Fever celebrate Caitlin Clark
Get ready — Caitlin Clark is coming to town. (Photo by Ron Hoskins/NBAE via Getty Images)

The Caitlin Clark effect is quickly making its mark on the big leagues, as WNBA host teams around the country rush to upgrade their Fever games to larger arenas in order to accommodate surging ticket sales.

With Clark mere weeks away from her Indiana Fever debut, both the Las Vegas Aces and Washington Mystics have officially relocated their scheduled home games with head coach Christie Sides' squad. On Thursday, the Mystics became the latest to adjust their plans, moving their June 7th matchup from Entertainment & Sports Arena in Southwest DC to the more centrally located — and much larger — Capital One Arena "due to unprecedented demand."

The Mystics home court's capacity taps out at 4,200, while Capital One Arena — home to the Wizards, Capitals, and Georgetown Hoya's Men's Basketball — can fit nearly five times that crowd at some 20,000 spectators.

"The move to Capital One Arena will allow for additional fans in the stands as well as premium hospitality options, including Suites and the all-new all-inclusive courtside Hennessy Lofts," the team announced via Thursday's press release.

The Aces were one of the first teams to switch venues, aiming to take on the Indiana Fever in front of as many as 20,000 fans inside T-Mobile Arena on July 2nd. That’s a sizable a boost from their home venue, which holds just 12,000.

For those still planning to face the Fever in their home arenas, ticket prices have skyrocketed. Previously scheduled construction has already forced the LA Sparks to relocate their first five games — including their May 24th clash with the Fever — to Long Beach State's Walter Pyramid. The temporary venue is quite the downsize, holding just 4,000 in comparison to Crypto.com Arena's near-19,000. As of Friday, the get-in price for that game started around $400.

Despite fans launching a Change.org petition urging relocation, the Chicago Sky say they're unable to move their June 23rd Fever meeting from Wintrust Arena's 10,000-seat facility to the 23,500-seat United Center due to a concert. Tickets for that game start around $325 as of Friday.

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