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August 4, 2020

Podcast No. 85: Jessica and Nelly Korda, Top-Ranked Pro Golfers

We’ve got a pair of phenomenal guests this week, two of the top-ranked golfers on the LPGA Tour--and they just so happen to be sisters, too.

By Will Ahmed

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Jessica and Nelly Korda join the podcast to discuss their pro-athlete family (they are the daughters of tennis players Petr Korda and Regina Rajchrtova, and their brother plays professional tennis as well) and how it has shaped who they are today, what got them on WHOOP and the insights they gain from it on a daily basis, plus what playing on the Tour will be like in the time of COVID-19.

We also talk about WHOOP teams they’re on with other athletes, what they each do to stay focused, how their training methods differ, and the value of bringing the family dog to tournaments.

Jessica and Nelly Korda Podcast Show Notes:

3:17 – Getting into Golf. “I kinda got a taste of the big leagues really early,” Jessica says, who qualified for the U.S. Open at age 15. Nelly also did at age 14.

3:45 – Pro-Athlete Parents. “I think it helps in the guiding aspect. They know more about recovery, and they know more about travel and the stress of being a professional athlete.”

6:54 – Sibling Rivalry. “I think it’s a really good blend of competitiveness and also being there for each other,” Nelly notes. “It’s very healthy, but it’s also fun for us.”

8:30 – Playing as Teammates. Jessica points out that “When you get down it’s really easy to bring that other person up because you know exactly what to say.”

11:03 – Firing a Caddy in Middle of US Open. “You’re a team out there and it just wasn’t working,” Jessica says. “In a sense I was alone out there. … Him and I are on really great terms now. I think finding a caddy is harder than finding a spouse.”

15:38 – Getting on WHOOP. “I actually started wearing it last year,” says Nelly. “And then I told Jess about it because she saw me wearing it, and she got it, and then I saw it all blew up and every golfer was wearing it.”

16:45 – LPGA Partnership. “I think a lot of girls are already wearing it, now it’s just going to grow more and more. It’s a good conversation starter as well.”

17:42 – Incredible Heart Rate Variability. Jessica states “Today I’m low and I’m 163.” Will says Justin Thomas asked him to find out her secret, “What kind of interval training have you been doing?”

19:02 – Their WHOOP Teams include their brother Sebastian, a pro tennis player. “His resting heart rate is like 33.” The siblings get very competitive with their WHOOP stats. “I’m on a team with Ricky, Justin, Bud Cauley, Smiley…”

20:25 – Measuring What You Can’t Feel. “It’s interesting to see the results of what you put into your body, these are results that you can’t physically see, but you can see them thanks to WHOOP.” They note the effects of magnesium, travel, sleeping in their own beds, and other things that affect sleep tracked via the WHOOP Journal.

22:27 – Why Do Golfers Get So Much Sleep? “I think it’s because we’re out in the sun all day, and that sun just drains so much energy from you, and being on your feet.”

23:08 – Strain of Tournament Round vs. Practice. “The stress. Our jobs are not secure, and you always know that, we play for our jobs every year, we play for a paycheck every week.”

23:48 – Tiger Woods. “I’m one of the ‘Tiger kids,’” Jessica says, referring to her influencers growing up. “Every time we turned on golf we were watching Tiger dominate.”

27:24 – Being Child Phenoms. “You always have to appreciate the small milestones that you’ve hit along the way.” When things didn’t go how they wanted to, their parents would always say “Look in the mirror and see what you did wrong.”

34:03 – Brutal Honesty from Parents. “They knew how to push us the right way, push the right buttons.”

35:57 – Bringing Dog on Tour. “Let’s say you haven’t had a great day, the unconditional love and happiness your dog brings just washes all the stress away.”

36:40 – Strength Training. “I feel like when I don’t [lift] my body falls apart.” They note it’s good for injury prevention more than it helps them actually hit the ball farther.

38:39 – Sweet Tooth? “She eats fruit and pretends she’s eating a donut.”

40:19 – The Sisters Have Very Different Workout Plans. “It’s really important to have a trainer that builds a program to your specific body, because no two bodies are the same.”

42:01 – Recovery Techniques. “I deem myself the queen of recovery. … Our parents always say to invest in our bodies.”

44:11 – Will Athletes Now Have Longer Careers? “I agree with that, but I also think we pound our bodies more than the older generation. … We put our bodies under more strain.”

46:10 – How to Stay Focused. “For me it’s routine,” Jessica says. “Routine and superstition,” Nelly adds. Their brother ate the same meal at the same restaurant for 7 straight days when he won the Australian Open junior title.

50:46 – Who Do They Look Up To? Jessica states “Really it is our parents. I love Lindsey Vonn’s drive. How many more times can she pick herself up after falling?” Nelly adds “I love Tiger and Rory. … Lindsey Vonn followed Jess on Instagram like a year ago and I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone so happy.”

52:47 – Pro Golfers are Surprisingly Collaborative. “I love that athletes are helping other athletes.” Compared to tennis where you play against a person, “We play against a golf course.”

55:13 – Lowest WHOOP Recovery. “Mine was 4%.” They discuss how travel and time zone changes are brutal for sleep and recovery.

56:54 – COVID-19 and the Tour. “No fans is going to be weird. … We’re not going to be able to room together.” Will says “Watch your respiratory rate.”

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Will Ahmed

Will Ahmed is the Founder and CEO of WHOOP, which has developed next generation wearable technology for optimizing human performance. WHOOP today works with everyone from professional athletes to fitness enthusiasts to executives. Ahmed has raised nearly $100 million from top investors and has an active advisory board that consists of some of the world’s most notable cardiologists, technologists, and designers. He wrote “The Feedback Tool: Measuring Fitness, Intensity, and Recovery,” which sparked the underlying physiology and engineering for his work today. Ahmed was named a 2011 Harvard College Scholar for finishing in the top 10% of his class and a CSA Scholar Athlete; he captained the Harvard Men’s Varsity Squash Team. He was also recently named to Forbes 30 Under 30 and Boston Business Journal 40 Under 40.

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