Sep 02

Austin Ernst at the Portland Classic

Austin Ernst Wins the Portland Classic

The weather forecast for Portland, Oregon is thunderstorms, lightning, and a bunch of other Biblical stuff. But, for the Portland Classic that ended Sunday, things were bright and sunny, and not just for the meteorologists. There is one happy southerner by the name of Austin Ernst, who just walked away with the Portland trophy, and fended off the nation of South Korea to do it.

We should have made a mental note of it last year, when Austin shot a 62 on the same course, finishing around ninth. That was in her rookie season, fresh out of Louisiana State University as a highly decorated collegiate golfer, making all kinds of history in the footsteps of colleague Megan McChrystal. I don’t know what they’re putting in the water down there, but there’s some scary golf coming out of LSU.
Golf Simplified logoaustin 1 The name Austin comes from the old French for Augustine, and the origins would be found in Emperor Augustus and observations such as  ‘this august occasion’ as well. Somehow, this Austin, the one with the great set of nerves, fits into all of that. Ernst, from the German, means ‘serious,’ ‘not something or someone to be taken lightly.’ Pretty obvious connection there, I would think. Austin risked losing it all, but did better than hold it together, chipping in for eagle on the 5th. I.K. Kim, a three time winner on the tour already, and one who would be expected to hold it together, didn’t. She was bogey-free through the entire tournament, then bogied the first hole of the playoff. Ernst shot a well-managed par.

I wondered if there is an increasing likelihood, or about to be, of people new to the tour doing better than they used to. If that is so, is it because young people coming out of college are less intimidated, or is because top collegiate programs are simply improving exponentially? And if that is true, isn’t it happening overseas and in neighbor countries in the west as well? I’m thinking of the Charley Hull types, of course.

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a href=”http://womensgolfcenter.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/austin-2.jpg”>austin 2 Austin Ernst may have been given some reprieve on the intimidation thing. She was born in Greenville, South Carolina, a region not unfamiliar with great golf traditions. Her father is a club professional, and brother Drew plays for Coastal Carolina. At twenty-two years of age, she has moved from a prodigious collegiate career to the big leagues without much of a ruffle. In her second year, she has won, including this tournament, around half a million, surely not the last of the paychecks, and more than enough incentive to keep going.

What interested me, however, was that she did it in a cliff-hanger, not a runaway. Even the lowest among us has that one blessed round once in a while, and sometimes an unknown pro will have two or three in a week’s time. I don’t believe, however, that Ernst was totally surprised by how beautifully she played. Excited and perhaps a little stunned standing in front of photographers surrounded by cups and flowers, but not in disbelief over her game.

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As a fairly old person, I have watched through the decades as younger and younger people figure it all out faster and faster than they used to. I have watched the number of prodigies increase in many professions, as I have watched pressures on childhood increase, demanding that they grow up more quickly than ever before. Sometimes, my greatest wish for the ensuing generation is that they might remain children just a little bit longer before having the whole enchilada thrown at them.

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