Back in 2021, Austin Ernst earned her third-career victory at the LPGA Drive On Championship presented by Volvik at Golden Ocala in what felt like dominating fashion. Heading into the final round only one shot ahead of fellow American Jennifer Kupcho, Ernst posted four-straight birdies on her opening nine holes to open a six-stroke lead, and never looked back.
“I was in the hunt the whole week. I won wire to wire. That last day we started off -- me and Jennifer were separated by a shot. I ended up playing a really, really good final round and winning that tournament by five,” said Ernst, who ultimately finished the week at -15. “I have great memories of that week, great memories kind of leading up.”
Ernst went on to record four additional top-20 finishes following the win in 2021, including a tie for fifth at the Dana Open presented by Marathon. The last time she was close to the Fort Myers area was for the CME Group Tour Championship in Naples, where she ultimately finished the year in a tie for 51st. Though Ernst said she still feels a bit “rusty” through the two opening events, she’s looking forward to taking on Crown Colony.
“It's pretty generous off the tee on some holes and then kind of necks in on a few, so it's got a little bit of variety to it,” she said. “The greens are really good. They've got a little bit more speed than we had last week, and with the wind that we saw yesterday, if it stays windy, obviously when you're downwind they have a little bit of firmness to them. So, it'll be interesting just kind of condition-wise, kind of how windy it is, to how low the scores can be.”