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Ernst Secures Maiden LPGA Victory


At a course where she recorded a career-best round 10-under 62 in 2013, Austin Ernst confirmed her affinity with Columbia-Edgewater Country Club on Sunday in the Portland Classic.

The former LSU player, whose father is a club pro, closed with a 5-under 67 to tie I.K. Kim of South Korea in regulation at 14-under 274, then Ernst parred the 18th hole on the first sudden-death hole (the 18th) to beat the South Korean for her first LPGA Tour win.

"Unbelievable," said a stunned Ernst at greenside right after Kim missed a par-tying putt from 8 feet that led to a bogey. "I'm just so happy."

As for her comfort with Columbia-Edgewater's classic tree-lined course, a teary-eyed Ernst added, "I have good memories here. I just love this place."

Koreans Chella Choi and So Yeon Ryu carded 68 and 70 to tie for third at 12-under 276, while another stroke back were France's Karine Icher (66), Na Yeon Choi (68), Eun-Hee Ji (70) and Denmark's Line Vedel (70).

Third-round leader Suzann Pettersen, the winner of the tournament in 2011 and '13 when it was called the Safeway Classic, finished with a disappointing 74 to end up in a tie for 16th at 9-under.

Among those missing from the Rose City event was No. 1 Stacy Lewis, the runner-up in Portland last year. After the Portland Classic, Lewis retained her position.

Also taking the week off were No. 3 Inbee Park; No. 4 Lydia Ko; No. 6 Lexi Thompson; No. 7 Cristie Kerr, who won in Portland in 2008; No. 10 Azahara Munoz; and Americans Paula Creamer and Natalie Gulbis. Michelle Wie, winner of the 2014 U.S. Women's Open, is still recovering from a finger injury.

For all the scores, visit www.lpga.com.

After signing her scorecard and accepting the Portland Classic trophy and $195,000 winner's check, the 24-year-old Ernst met with reporters for the following Q&A.

AUSTIN ERNST: I actually was surprised I wasn't extremely nervous all day. I did a really good job of just kind of slowing myself down, but yeah, just preparing for the playoff I knew I kind of pulled two drives left, and then I actually talked to my dad on the phone, and he said it kind of looked like I had angled it a little bit that way. So I just went out, had my brother check my alignment, and then hit a few good ones and then just rolled a bunch of putts just trying to get you know, I had to feel the speed, just kind of trying to stay loose. And just went out there and tried to do the same things I was doing today.

Q. Did you think the birdie putt on 18 on the playoff hole was going to go in? It looked like it.

AUSTIN ERNST: It looked really good for a long time, and then it just kind of tailed off at the end a little bit to the left. But I wanted to hit it with good speed so that if it didn't go in, then I just had a little one and a half footer left, which hit a really good putt, and then ended up being enough.

Q. Can you talk about what you went through after you were finished and you kind of prepared for the playoff?

AUSTIN ERNST: Yeah. Actually didn't get too down, even though I bogeyed the last two, I actually made a really good putt for bogey on 17. And then those are probably two of the hardest holes on the course. The finish is pretty tough out here. So when I talked to my dad, he told me, if you would have made those two bogeys anywhere else in the round, nobody would look at it any different. So he told me, you know, good round, really solid round. And what was the end of the question? I'm sorry.

Q. Just how you -

AUSTIN ERNST: Then I just went out, I hit a few drives, kind of pulled those two, and then I just hit a few 7 irons because I knew that's probably what I was going to be hitting in, which it ended up I did hit 7 iron into 18. And then I rolled a few putts kind of similar to how I figured my putt would be.

Q. Can you talk us through your eagle?

AUSTIN ERNST: I think I had 195 yards to the front of the green on 5. I'm not sure exactly how far to the pin. I think it was probably about 229. And the course is burned out a lot over the last couple days, so I actually hit four hybrid. I was trying to play to that front number. And then I kind of caught it pretty - kind of caught it, I guess. It rolled over the green, just over into the first cut of the rough. And I hit a little bump and run 54 that landed perfect, and it just rolled right in.

Q. You played (inaudible).

AUSTIN ERNST: I did.

Q. Have you ever done that with her?

AUSTIN ERNST: I'm not sure. I made quite a few eagles this year. Both, actually all three of them were chip ins.

Q. This is your second tournament here. Last year, the 62. You win this year. This course must - you must feel pretty good around this course.

AUSTIN ERNST: Yeah. I'm very confident when I step on this golf course. I love it. I don't know what it is that fits my eye. But I just really enjoy playing it, and then this year obviously with the 62 last year, had a lot of good memories coming into this year. Had one of my best finishes last year on this course. So I was just very confident coming in here, knowing that I know the golf course well and I can make a lot of birdies.

MODERATOR: So how are you feeling right now? First time winner. You've never really been in this position on a Sunday coming down the stretch there. What did it feel like to actually break through in the end?

AUSTIN ERNST: Yeah, it was great. I guess in Toledo that was the next closest I've been. I was three shots back going into the final round in Toledo, and I played with Lydia. But that experience I learned a lot, kind of being near the lead in the first couple of rounds. You just kind of take a lot from those rounds that you don't realize until you kind of get in this position again. But I knew that I didn't have to do anything special, if I just kept playing how I've been playing this week. I had three really good rounds to start with. But yeah, coming down the stretch, I was very proud of how I handled everything.

MODERATOR: How much did you watch the leaderboard coming down the stretch? At what point did you know you were in the lead and at what point did you start looking at it.

AUSTIN ERNST: I actually saw the leaderboard on six green. I think I saw I had like a two shot lead, but you can make a lot of birdies out here, so I really didn't try to pay attention to it very much. I kind of had - I was actually trying to get to 18 today, starting the day. But I just kept trying to make birdies. And then on 10 I kind of played - I hit a wedge shot, and kind of made a par there, and Drew turned to me and said, keep making birdies, stay aggressive. And I just kept staying aggressive, trying to get a lot of good looks at birdie. Out here you just need to hit the fairway and hit the green, get a lot of good looks because the greens are good enough that you're going to roll in a few long ones.

Q. When you came off, you were at 14 under. So Yeon and I.K. were at 14 under. Did you know that both those last two holes were going to play pretty tough and were going to be pretty tough to birdie?

AUSTIN ERNST: Yeah, where the pin is on 17, it's just hard to get near it where you have a relatively straight putt. Same thing with 18. It's hard to get at that pin with that water short. You don't have a whole lot of room behind it either. So I knew that they would have to play very well to make birdie on those holes, and then obviously when I was warming up to get ready for the playoff, I kind of knew what they were doing. People were kind of telling me. I knew that I.K. made par, and that I was definitely going into a playoff after I think So Yeon hit it in the water on 18.

Q. How many playoffs had you been in previously? Any amateur events, high school tournaments, anything?

AUSTIN ERNST: I've been in some. I can't remember the last one I was in, though. I've been in a few, but I can't remember the last one I was in.

Q. Have you been in a part of the group that doused someone on 18 with the water and what did it feel like to be on the opposite end of that?

AUSTIN ERNST: It's nice. Yeah, I got to do it to Lexi at Kraft, and it's definitely nice being on the receiving end. It was fun then, but you know, you see how happy they are at the end of the day. So it's great.

Q. And how much more did it mean to have your brother on the bag to do it this week?

AUSTIN ERNST: Oh, it's great. I love having Drew on the bag. We get along really well, and Drew's really proud that he was here with me.

The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.