Austin Ernst may not be among the best known players on the LPGA Tour, but the 24-year-old South Carolina native is rapidly making a name for herself. Ernst ranks tenth with 113 points on the Solheim Cup Team USA point rankings as a result of four top-10 finishes in 2016 tour events. That includes a second-place tie at Citibanamex Lorena Ochoa Invitational in Mexico City on November 13. Ernst also finished in a fourth-place tie at the Cambia Portland Classic, tied for eighth at the Manulife LPGA Classic in Canada and tied for ninth-place at the COATES Golf Championship in Florida.
Ernst says she developed a passion for golf when her father took her to watch the Masters at age nine. That passion led her to become one of the best collegiate golfers some 10 years later when she captured the NCAA Individual Title while competing as a freshman at LSU. After a second successful year with the Tigers, Ernst went to LPGA Qualifying School in 2012 and won her 2013 LPGA Tour Card on the first try.
In little more than a year on tour, she notched a LPGA tournament victory in a one-hole playoff against South Korea's I.K. Kim at the 2014 Portland Classic.
Ernst credits much of her improvement to Stacy Lewis who has earned a reputation for helping young players adapt to LPGA tour play. "Any question I had, she answered for me. I wasn't afraid to ask questions, and at the time, she was the No. 1-ranked player in the world, there was no better brain to pick," Ernst told the Portland Oregonian after her LPGA tour victory.
Ernst's strength is a strong iron game that could help her challenge the tough pin placements and undulating greens at Des Moines Golf and Country Club, which will host the 2017 Solheim Cup. She also has improved her putting accuracy, moving from 141st on the tour rankings in 2014 to 121st in 2016.
Will Ernst represent her country for the first time? There's a lot of golf to be played before we know. Until then, get your tickets to the 2017 Solheim Cup and see the best women golfers from the USA and Europe.