Ernst cruises to Drive On LPGA win 

Austin Ernst gets doused with beer after winning the LPGA Drive On Championship presented by Volvik golf tournament at the Golden Ocala Golf and Equestrian Club in Ocala, Fla. on Sunday, March 7, 2021. [Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette] 2021.

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Posted March 7, 2021 | By Brendan Farrell, Ocala Gazette

Austin Ernst gets doused after winning the LPGA Drive On Championship presented by Volvik golf tournament at the Golden Ocala Golf and Equestrian Club in Ocala on Sunday. [Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette]


With a limited capacity crowd gathered at the 18th hole on Sunday, Austin Ernst’s putt just missed. It was one of only a few shots that didn’t go her way this weekend at the Golden Ocala Golf Club.

Ernst stepped back up and tapped the ball in to seal her third career LPGA Tour victory by five strokes. The 29-year-old finished 15 strokes under par over four rounds after carding a 2-under 70 on Sunday, her worst round of the tournament. Ernst was one stroke shy of tying Choi Na-yeon’s 16-under win at Golden Ocala at the 2015 Coates Golf Championship, the lowest score of that tournament’s two-year run.
“I think it’s just really cool to be in the heat of it all week and to be able to perform the way I did and to hit the shots I hit and to shoot the scores I shot,” Ernst said. “I think it’s just kind of a testament to me that I can do this week in and week out and just, if I have a little belief in myself, what I can do.”
She entered Sunday with a one-stroke lead over Jennifer Kupcho and was off to a hot start on the front nine, scoring four consecutive birdies starting on the fourth hole. Ernst made three tribute holes from Royal Troon, Augusta National and Muirfield look easy to open up a six-stroke lead that she maintained through the rest of the front nine.
However, it was a different Augusta National tribute hole, the 13th hole that is also Golden Ocala’s 12th hole, where Ernst ran into trouble. After Kupcho birdied the 10th hole to narrow the deficit to five, Ernst’s approach shot ended up in the water before she scored a bogey on the hole. Kupcho’s eagle putt lipped out, and she had to settle for a birdie to trail by just three strokes.
Ernst credited her brother and caddy, Drew, for helping to settle her down as her lead dwindled.
“I think that’s just where he really helped just kind of focus and then just kind of refocus on myself coming in,” Ernst said. “And then (I) obviously made some good swings coming in and made it pretty easy at the end.”
But from there, Kupcho couldn’t take advantage of an Ernst bogey on the 13th hole and carded two bogeys and then a double bogey on the 15th hole to just one birdie the rest of the way. Ernst, the 33rd-ranked player in the world heading into this weekend, parred the last five holes to comfortably hold onto first place on her way back to the clubhouse. Kupcho, who has zero career wins, settled for second at 10 under.
“I set myself up with after 12 to be able to make a little bit of a move, I just missed a pretty easy up-and-down honestly on 13 and obviously missed the putt on 14, it was really close as well,” Kupcho said. “But I didn’t really think it was over until I hit that tee shot on 15. I mean, everyone hits bad shots, it’s just unfortunate that’s just when mine came.”
Albane Valenzuela rounded out the final group, scoring a 1-over 73 that sent her down to fifth place, as Jenny Coleman was the last member of an all-American top three and South Korea’s In Gee Chun finished in fourth. Nelly Korda started the day in 11th place before struggling on Sunday and getting passed by her sister, Jessica. Jessica finished in a tie for eighth place, while Nelly fell to a tie for 28th.
Complete results available here.
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