Second-year LPGA Tour player Austin Ernst had a very big day last Sunday. She recorded her third top-10 pro finish and her first pro victory at the Portland Classic Presented by Cambia Health Solutions by besting IK Kim in a playoff. That win, which got her a check for $195K, more than doubled her 2014 winnings and it punched her ticket to the Evian Championship. Ernst barely had time to catch her breath before she jumped up 71 spots in the Rolex world rankings on Monday, to number 74, and then gussied up for her Golf Channel Morning Drive gig on Thursday.
Portland: Two Bogies, Then a Par
The Portland Classic was Austin Ernst’s tournament to lose half-way through the back nine on Sunday. Leading by two heading into the final two holes, disaster struck. Ernst made bogey on back-to-back holes to post 14-under-par. Her lead was gone. IK Kim was bearing down. The nerves and disappointment could have crushed her in the playoff, too, but instead, she calmly called her dad – a PGA professional – and got some advice.
Part Dad-Part PGA Pro told Ernst what she needed to hear. He reminded her that she had the shots she needed. With her brother on her bag and that magical pep talk in her head, Ernst blasted a drive straight down the middle and hit a cloud-scraping 7-iron 25 feet behind the hole before delicately lagging her birdie putt, which nearly went in, down 6 inches behind the hole for par. She then waited as I.K. Kim was unable to make her 8-foot par putt to force another trip down the 18th hole. She grabbed her brother and celebrated her first LPGA Tour win.
Playing Her Way to the Top
Austin Ernst has been steadily playing her way to the top of the Portland Classic leaderboard for the past four years.
Ernst played her collegiate golf at LSU where she was the 2011 NCAA individual champion and also earned NGCA First-Team All-American honors. She was also a semifinalist at the 2011 U.S. Women’s Amateur and was a member of the 2012 U.S. Curtis Cup Team before qualifying for the Tour on her first attempt, finishing 14th at the 2012 LPGA Final Qualifying Tournament to earn full status for the 2013 season.
During her rookie year Ernst entered 23 events, made 13 cuts, and won $142K. She recorded two top-10s and carded a career-low 62 in the third round of the Safeway Classic Presented by Coca-Cola. She finished T48th at the 2013 US Women’s Open and missed the cut at the Ricoh Women’s British Open and the Evian Championship.
Going into the Evian this year Ernst has played the weekend at the Kraft Nabisco Championship (T51), the Ricoh Women’s British Open (T62) and the Wegman’s LPGA Championship (71). She’s made the cut in 12 of the 18 events she entered and she ranks number 1 on the Tour in eagles (12). I’m looking for her short game to carry her into the weekend at Evian-les-Bain.