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Austin Ernst cruises to LPGA Drive On title

Austin Ernst wins 2021 LPGA Drive On Championship
Austin Ernst revels in her 3rd LPGA victory Sunday in Ocala, Fla.

American leads wire-to-wire in posting 5-stroke victory at Golden Ocala for her 3rd career triumph on the women’s tour

Given a preference, Austin Ernst would opt for a wire-to-wire victory on the LPGA.

Ernst ran away from the field to win the LPGA Drive On Championship in Ocala, Fla., having led from start to finish.

“Going wire-to-wire is really cool,” said Ernst, who shared the first-round lead. “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 shoot the scores I shot, I think it’s a testament to me that I can do this week in and week out, just if I have a little belief in myself in what I can do.”

On the strength of four consecutive birdies on the front nine at Golden Ocala Golf Club, Ernst closed with a 2-under 70 for a 15-under 273 total and five-stroke victory (scores).

Ernst, 29, a South Carolinian who is in her ninth season on the LPGA, has won three times on the tour, including twice in the past seven months. She won her first title (2014 Portland Classic) in a playoff and her second (2020 Walmart NW Arkansas Championship) coming from behind.

Runner-up Jennifer Kupcho had pulled to within three strokes of Ernst via a two-stroke swing at the par-5 12th – birdie for Kupcho and a bogey for Ernst – but Kupcho played the next five holes in 4 over. She signed for a 2-over 74 and 10-under 278 total.

“I was aware all day of where we stood,” said Ernst, the 2011 NCAA champion out of LSU who was paired with Kupcho, another NCAA winner (2018, Wake Forest), in the final round, “but I kind of just wanted to keep the pedal down.”

Other than making consecutive bogeys on the 12th and 13th holes, Ernst was not seriously threatened.

She becomes the third American to win in as many events on the LPGA this season, joining Jessica Korda (Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions) and younger sister Nelly Korda (Gainbridge LPGA).

American Jenny Coleman (71) finished third at 8-under 280, followed by South Korea’s In Gee Chun (69) at 7 under.

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