Junior golf star Nelly Korda remains focused on the present

Stephanie Lau of California is third after an opening-round 73 at Mira Vista Country Club.
Stephanie Lau of California is third after an opening-round 73 at Mira Vista Country Club. Star-Telegram

You can ask 16-year-old Nelly Korda if she plans on playing college golf or moving on as a professional, and the answer for the 2014 Kathy Whitworth Invitational champion is still going to be the same.

While both are viable options, and sister Jessica made the immediate jump to the LPGA Tour, Korda remains coy about the prospects.

Plus, there’s no rush.

“I’m just focused on junior golf right now,” Korda said. “I can definitely imagine being part of a college team, playing with a group that plays a lot of tournaments and then the individual competition that goes with that also. I think it would be fun.”

But for now, Korda is set on defending her title at the 2015 Whitworth after an opening-round 76 in dreary conditions Monday at Mira Vista Country Club.

She sits tied for seventh with three others, five shots behind Tokyo’s Rino Sasaki (71).

Rinko Mitsunaga of Georgia is one behind after a 72, and Stephanie Lau of California is third at 73.

Weather permitting, the final round is slated for Tuesday.

For Korda, it’s the first title defense in her career. But she added a win to her résumé at the Harder Hall junior in January.

“I didn’t hit it all that great today,” she said. “I was disappointed because I felt like I left some out there even with the conditions.”

A triple bogey got things off to a sour start on the first hole, and a double bogey later had the Florida native scrambling to salvage her round.

She found that with birdies on Nos. 9 and 14, which helped keep Korda in the mix.

With added length off the tee since last year, Korda’s wedge approach on No. 9 landed just 7 feet from the hole and her 70-yard approach on No. 16 was within 9 feet.

Those were her only converted opportunities inside 10 feet all day.

“My swing has really improved with a new teacher, and I feel like things are simpler,” Korda said. “But we’re working also to improve my putting, and that always seems to be an area I need to work to get better.”

While her game evolves, she said making that call to play at the next level isn’t so easy when comparing her options to the decisions made by her sister.

“We’re two totally different players,” Korda said. “I’ve always been a bit more technical and the one that wanted to hit it harder, so there’s plenty for me still to learn. What works for her isn’t necessarily what works for me.”