BATON ROUGE – Former LSU women’s golf All-American and 2011 NCAA individual champion Austin Ernst captured her first LPGA title Sunday, first firing a final round 67, and then with a par on the first hole of sudden death Sunday at the Portland Classic.
Ernst is the third former LSU women’s golfer to win an event on women’s golf’s top tour joining Jenny Lidback and Jackie Gallagher-Smith. Lidback win was a major championship, the du Maurier Classic in 1995. Gallagher-Smith’s LPGA win came in 1999 at the Giant Eagle LPGA Classic.
Ernst finished 72 holes at 14-under par (69-69-69-67 – 274) on the Columbia Edgewater Country Club, a course that is obviously to the Seneca, S. C. native’s likings. Last year, she posted 62 in the third round of the Portland Classic to finish in a tie for ninth.
There were a few scary moments in the finish as Ernst bogeyed 17 and 18 to fall back to 14-under and tied with two players still on the course. But only I. K. Kim could get home at 14-under and the playoff began on the 18th hole. But before the playoff, Ernst could be seen on the phone with her father, Mark, a PGA club professional in South Carolina.
Both players hit drives within yards of each other in the middle of the fairway, but Kim (hitting first) pulled her shot to the right of the flag and off the green. Ernst played a positive shot to the back of the green giving her a long putt for birdie.
Kim’s chip went by the hole and about 10 feet past the flag while Ernst’s 40-foot putt just missed the hole as it went by. She tapped in and Kim missed her putt to begin the celebration for Ernst.
With her first prize of $195,000, she has made $299,658 this season and is 32nd on the LPGA money list as she became the fifth first-time winner on the LPGA tour this year and the eighth different American to win on the LPGA tour.
Ernst played at LSU in 2011 and 2012, helping LSU to back-to-back third place finishes in the NCAA Championship. She won the individual NCAA championship in Bryon, Texas with a final round of 66 to shoot -7 under 281 for 72 holes. She attended Q-School following the 2012 NCAA Championship and qualified for the tour with a 14th place finish. In just under two years on the LPGA tour, she has won, with Sunday’s win, a total of $441,600.