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Ernst snatches victory from Kim in playoff
August 31, 2014

Leading by two heading into the final two holes, Austin Ernst made bogey on back-to-back holes to post 14-under-par. The nerves and disappointment could have crushed her in the playoff, too, but instead, she calmly called her dad - a PGA professional - and got some advice. Whatever he said proved magical as Ernst blasted a drive straight down the middle and hit a cloud-scraping 7-iron 25 feet behind the hole before delicately lagging her birdie putt, which nearly went in, down 6 inches behind the hole for par. She then waited as I.K. Kim was unable to make her 8-foot par putt to force another trip down the 18th hole. She grabbed her brother, who doubles as her caddie, and celebrated her first LPGA Tour win.

“I did a really good job of just 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 it angled a bit that way,” Ernst said. “So just went out, had my brother check my alignment, and then hit a few good ones and then just rolled a bunch of putts 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.”

Ernst was the leader in the clubhouse after a 5-under 67 but had to wait 30 minutes for So Yeon Ryu and I.K. Kim to finish who were both at 14-under when she signed her card. Kim made par on the last two holes to force the playoff with Ernst, but Ryu – playing in the group behind Kim - hit her second from a fairway bunker into the greenside pond, creating a two-player playoff. Kim was unable to get up and down from off the right side of the green on the first playoff hole, missing an 8-foot par putt to match Ernst’s par on 18 after Ernst had two putted. It was the first bogey Kim had made all day.

When Kim arrived to her tee shot on 18 - the first playoff hole - she realized she had actually hit her tee shot too good. The drive she described as her “best” of the week, left her in between clubs so she tried to bail out right to keep from going long. Kim, now 0-5 in Playoffs, was admittedly disappointing leaving the green that she wasn’t walking away with her fourth career title but first since 2010.

“I’m happy, but I played a lot of playoffs and haven’t won one yet,” Kim said. “So just kind of -- it was in the back of my mind. But she deserves it.”

Chella Choi and So Yeon Ryu tied for third at 12-under-par. Karine Icher (66), Na Yeon Choi (68), Eun-Hee Ji (70), and Line Vedel (70) tied for fifth at 11-under.

Defending champion Suzann Pettersen was tied for the lead entering the final round but faded with a final-round 74 to finish at 9-under-par.

Gracious in defeat: If there’s anyone on the LPGA Tour more graceful than So Yeon Ryu in defeat, the list is short. Needing a par on the last hole to force a playoff, Ryu blocked her tee shot into the fairway bunker off the tee and caught the approach a bit heavy, dumping it in the water and making a double bogey to lose her shot at a playoff and finish in a tie for third. Still, another great week for Ryu after winning a week ago and she continues to pile up top-10 finishes and make a late season push at the Rolex Player of the Year.

“I knew [I needed par]. I was supposed to hit just a slight draw, but I hit a push and unfortunately finished in the bunker. Also, these days I have been struggling with fairway bunker shots. As you saw, my result was pretty bad,” said Ryu with a self-deprecating chuckle. “So kind of like the worst scenario. But yeah, it feels great to be in contention again, and I saw a lot of positive things this week. So honestly, I’m disappointed with my finish, but still happy with my result.”

Although the final hole was a tough pill to swallow, Ryu said her work with her sports psychologist recently has been a blessing for her golf game and is happy with where her game is at heading into the season’s final major in two weeks - the Evian Championship.

“My shots feel great, my putting feels great. Maybe only thing is maybe fairway bunker shots are not that great,” Ryu said. “Next week I’m going to charge up and be more focused, and I’m pretty sure I can get a good result at Evian.”

The final walk: The timing differed by a little more than an hour, but the scene didn’t as the PA announcer welcomed Hee-Won Han and then Jeong Jang to the 18th green for the final time at an LPGA Tour event. Off to the left of the green, a Golf Channel camera man filmed the final putt of Jeong Jang and Hee-Won Han’s careers – two members of the first generation of Korean golfers on the LPGA Tour – ensuring the world would see the final two putts from two players that assuredly helped spread this game globally. As the final putts dropped and Han and Jang exited the green towards the scorer’s tent, a host of friends – who doubled as her playing competitors for years – awaited with hugs, congratulations, good byes and flowers. The tears couldn’t wait for their embrace, though, as Han and Jang said a teary farewell to the game they love.

“I was crying, like, you know the past few weeks, and I thought I’m okay this week. And I was promising I’m never going to cry today,” Jang said. “But you know, I was walking fairway and then the guy was announcing about my career. It was making it kind of sad.”

Han actually completed this dramatic exit twice. She was sure she’d need a birdie on the 18th on Friday to make the cut and when she didn’t get it, she was sure 1-over-par was going to send her home. It didn’t, squeaking in by the number as the afternoon scores couldn’t match the morning wave. That paved the way for her to exit in style with her friend, Jang.

Han leaves Portland as the 2004 winner here. Jang leaves with three runner-ups in Portland. Both leave the game with multiple LPGA wins to their credit and nearly $7 million in career earnings. But most importantly, both left the game better than they found it.

“Definitely friends, and all the LPGA staff and fans out here and all the volunteers. I don’t think I’m going to miss traveling, but I’m going to miss all the friends out here,” Jang said.

The feelings mutual, “J.J.”

A Stoll-en show: Gigi Stoll knocked a 30-foot putt down to a couple inches from the hole and tapped in on the 18th hole for her second consecutive 1-under to finish at 1-under-par for the weekend. Off to the right of the green, a chant broke out: “When I say Gigi, you say Stoll!”

The local girl broke out in a big smile, raised her arms, pumping up the crowd and completing a dream week.

“It was awesome just walking down the fairway, seeing all my friends and just having the big applause,” Stoll said. “It was just everything I could imagine.”

After Monday qualifying for this event, the Arizona commit’s goal was to make the cut. She did so on Friday in dramatic fashion, hitting the pin with her approach and draining the birdie to make the cut on the number.

“Didn’t even play my best on Friday, but just to be able to make the cut and play in front of all my family and friends, it’s amazing,” she said.

As one friend put it as Stoll signed autographs for admiring fans, “this is just surreal.” But then that same friend reminded her, “Gigi, remember school starts Wednesday.”

“Yeah. Unfortunately. I have to go get school supplies,” Stoll said, who will start her senior year of high school.

In the meantime, she’ll go back to working on her short game. That was her major takeaway from the week – short game, short game, short game. That’s how players score out here and that’s what she felt the
difference between her game and the professionals was.

“I learned that I’m pretty close to having what it takes, you know, just a lot of practice, that my goals that I’ve – my goals are doable, for sure,” she said. “And that’s to be out here, you know, as a pro. And it’s very doable.”

Eagles for wounded warriors: $235,000 has now been raised for the Wounded Warrior Project by the CME Group with six players carding eagles on Sunday. Today, six eagles were recorded to go along with the four from Saturday. It brings the total money raised this year to $235,000. Through the first 21 tournaments prior to the Portland Classic Presented by Cambia Health Solutions, $225,000 had been raised.

“Wounded Warrior Project® Weekends” is a season-long charity program that will be tied into the Race to the CME Globe. Each Saturday and Sunday at LPGA tournaments, CME Group will donate $1,000 to Wounded Warrior Project® for each eagle that is recorded. This amount will increase to $5,000 for each eagle during the weekend of the CME Group Tour Championship and a formal check will be presented to the Wounded Warrior Project® during the trophy ceremony at the CME Group Tour Championship.


Quote of the day: “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-under today starting the day. But I just kept trying to make birdies.
- - Austin Ernst

Social scene: Lizette Salas and Amy Anderson showered Austin Ernst, their good friend, on the 18th green to celebrate her first career win.


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