Getting your hands on a match ball is a dream for any sports fan. Preferably though, that ball should not still be in play.
This was the bizarre scenario Nelly Korda found herself in at the Evian Championship on Sunday, in Évian-les-Bains, France, as the American golfer’s ball – having only just rolled to a stop – was picked up by a spectator.
The 2021 Women’s PGA Championship winner had made a strong start to the final round of the major, opening with back-to-back birdies to edge closer to the leading pack. Yet disaster struck at the par-four sixth hole when her approach shot skewed off into the trees and settled in the wood chippings along a path for spectators.
Unbeknownst to Korda, her situation was about to get even worse when a nearby fan spotted the ball and picked it up. Smiling and raising it in front of her, she then walked to a nearby official to present her find, apparently unaware that she’d done anything wrong.
“It’s not a souvenir!” said commentator Grant Boone, in a video shared on Twitter by Sky Sports Golf, adding that the spectator was “in big trouble now.”
The official quickly approached the spectator and directed her back to the area where she had found the ball. There, she dropped it back onto the ground before casting a mortified look at the steward.
Korda was made aware of the incident upon arriving at the ball and was afforded a better lie, but proceeded to double bogey, dropping her back to even par for the round. It was the only double bogey she carded at any of the 72 holes across the event.
The 24-year-old’s initial response to the incident was emphatic, with a birdie and an eagle across the following three holes, but her one-over par through the back nine scuppered any chance of her challenging for the championship.
She finished 13-under par for the tournament in joint eighth, four strokes behind winner Brooke Henderson. The Canadian surged to her second major title with three birdies across the last five holes, edging American Sophia Schubert by one shot.