Date: February 12, 2013
Author: Peter Stone /

Peter Stone: Korda sets minds aflutter

Perhaps, in the light of the current drugs in sport controversy in which gambling and possible links with criminals is being investigated, it is inappropriate to recall a betting plunge I made just over 12 months ago at the Australian Ladies Masters at Royal Pines on the Golf Coast. But, what the hell, and we ll proceed with the usual warning that gambling can be addictive. Through more than 40 years of writing about golf, I ve had the occasional flutter on tournaments with precious little success. Just petty cash really, but last year I lashed out. I invested $200 with the Queensland TAB to win just under $10,000 on 18-year-old American Jessica Korda. I d interviewed her at Oatlands in the lead-up to the NSW Women’s Open and it was one of the more delightful chats I ve had in sport. She was, still is of course, just so natural and engaging. Her pedigree is tennis, with her father Petr winning the Australian Open at Melbourne Park in 1998 but golf beckoned instead. Her dad reckoned she didn t want to play tennis because she didn t want to sweat but golfers do perspire you know. Watching her play a practice round was to see a tall athletic blonde lass belting the golf ball the proverbial country mile. I thought of the wide-open Royal Pines layout and thought what a massive advantage she would take into the Ladies Masters. Her putting was sound, so too her short game. All she lacked was experience. Her caddie at Royal Pines was Gary Parker, long-time bagman for Peter Senior before Senior s son Mitch elbowed him aside, and he too was impressed. So came the plunge. I still have the TAB tickets at home as a reminder of what might have been. Korda missed the cut, and then it was revealed her been suffering some bug shead caught in her travels. I think of what American golfer Miller Barber, when reminiscing about what might have been when he was in Australia in the 1970s, said: If all the ifs and buts were candy and nuts, we d have a great Christmas. True punters will follow up, but this part-timer didn t and the rest, as they say, is history. Korda won the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open at Royal Melbourne when she holed an eight metre curling right to left birdie putt on the second playoff hole against five other players. What I didn t know until too late that her caddie that week was Simon Clarke who knows the course better than most and did the yardage book for all the other caddies that week. Now Korda is back to defend her Open title at Royal Canberra against a challenge from some of the world s best players headed by the No 1 ranked Yani Tseng. I had a bet on her, too, at Royal Pines back in 2007 when she called herself Ruby after playing with her in the pro-am. She signed the obligatory photo of our group and wrote something in Chinese characteristics that probably translated: You are a bad golfer. She finished fifth that week. They say the punt giveth and the punt taketh away – it s invariably the latter. Defending Australian Open Champion How does that feel? asked media centre co-ordinator Kathie Shearer as she introduced Korda on Tuesday. She’s still a teenager, for two more weeks anyway, and she replied as any teenager would That sounds really cool, yeah. It’s really exciting to be here this week. It’s a little different defending on a different golf course, and a completely different venue, but it s really exciting. It’s something new and I m really enjoying it. Before meeting up with the Fourth Estate, she had lunch at Parliament House with a few of the pollies before they headed to the battleground, which is Question Time. Apparently she wowed them, too. She is a great advertisement for the women’s game. It was probably six weeks before the LPGA Tour hit home soil after Korda s victory last year, so a lot of the momentum on the media side was lost. She figured that a good thing as it allowed her to focus fully on her golf as it s still very much a learning curve and a work in progress. She does have a darn good head on her young shoulders. Call it a solid year, nothing spectacular. She had an eighth place in Malaysia a couple of weeks after the events of Royal Melbourne but no further top 10s for the year. She won $US339,320 to finish 41st on the money list and a couple of weeks ago finished fifth in the Ladies Masters behind Karrie Webb who won for an eighth time. Last week was spent in Melbourne, playing Royal Melbourne (as you would just relive the memories) and two other sand belt gems Victoria and Metropolitan. Her dad will once again watch her on TV in the US as she defends her crown here at Royal Canberra. He’s a proud dad, even though she did beat him by a couple of shots during a game in the Czech Republic when she was aged 10. She’s the real golfer in the family; he was the tennis player. And, in case you re wondering, I haven t had a bet this week.