Two Former LSU Women's Golfers Chosen For Solheim Cup

by Kent Lowe (@LSUkent)
Two Former LSU Women's Golfers Chosen For Solheim Cup

KINGSBARNS, Scotland – LSU women’s golf literally doubled its pleasure Sunday as former All-America stars of the program – Austin Ernst and Madelene Sagstrom – were selected as Captain’s Picks for the 2017 Solheim Cup.

The 2017 Solheim Cup is the 15th edition of the matches, being held Aug. 18–20 at the Des Moines Golf and Country Club in West Des Moines, Iowa.

Ernst will play for Captain Julie Inkster’s U.S. squad, while Sagstrom was chosen by European Captain Annika Sorenstam. The captains’ selections were made Sunday at the conclusion of the Ricoh Women’s British Open.

Ernst was the 2011 NCAA Champion as an LSU freshman (and in 2011 and 2012 part of back-to-back third place team finishes in the NCAA) and is in her fifth year on the LPGA Tour, while Sagstrom was the 2015 SEC POY as a senior, the 2016 Symetra Tour POY and is in her first year on the LPGA Tour. She won the qualifying school for the Ladies European Tour late last year to earn membership in that tour at the suggestion of Captain Sorenstam to get her eligible as a possible member of the European team for this event.

“I am so proud of have two LSU Tigers representing Team USA and Team Europe in the 2017 Solheim Cup,” said LSU Head Women’s Golf Coach Karen Bahnsen, who coached both ladies in their LSU careers. “It has been a life-long dream for both of these girls to represent their respective nations in this prestigious event.

“It reinforces that through hard work and determination you can reach your goals. Well-deserved girls,” Bahnsen said.

The pair will be the first two golfing competitors from LSU in the women’s matches between the U.S. and Europe. Former LSU golfer Jacqueline Hedwall did caddy for her sister Caroline on the European squad in a previous Solheim Cup

Ernst, who just missed making the 2015 Solheim team, certainly had extra motivation going into this selection period and was in an automatic qualifying position going into the summer. But she was just 20 points out of a qualifying position entering this weekend’s Ricoh Women’s British Open.

“I just think it was a win/win,” Inkster said about Ernst and the other rookie selection, Angel Yin. “They are rookies but they have to play some time, and I have a lot of confidence in them.”

Ernst, age 25, drew Inkster’s attention by recording three top 10s on the 2017 LPGA Tour, including a tie for second at the Kia Classic. She is No. 32 in money won this year on the tour at $397,793 and in her career has one win, 15 top 10s and $1.864 million in earnings. Ernst has the chance by the end of the year to become the first LSU women’s golfer to go over 2 million dollars in career earnings.

“Austin Ernst went to LSU. Been a good player. Has won once,” said Inkster. “She’s consistent. She’s a really good ball-striker. Hits a lot of greens. I just felt last time (in 2015) she was just on the outside looking in and I had to tell her no. This year, she was the same kind of outside looking in. I just felt she deserved a chance to see what she can do.”

“It’s awesome,” said Ernst, who was a member of the 2012 U.S. Curtis Cup lead (winning 2.5 points). “It’s a dream come true. I wanted to make the last team (in 2015).”

Sagstrom, after finishing at even par in the British Open and winning more than $7,000, is now No. 52 on the LPGA money list in her first season with $228,795. The Swedish native, who has status on both the LPGA and LET tours, needs just a few strong finishes in tour events to secure a top status next year by finishing among the top 60 money winners.

Sorenstam made Sagstrom one of four rookies on Team Europe. “Another upcoming talent,” Sorenstam said. “She had a lot of success on the Symetra Tour last year, earning a battlefield promotion to the LPGA. She has had several top 10 finishes on the LPGA this year. A lot of player want to play with her. She will be a great addition to the team.”

Sagstrom, age 24, later tweeted: “Words can’t describe how excited I am to play in my first Solheim Cup. It’s a dream come true! I’m ready, bring it on.”

Team USA will try to retain the trophy in front of the home fans after staging the biggest come-from-behind victory in the event’s history to beat Europe 14.5-13.5 at Golf Club St. Leon-Rot in Baden-Wurttemberg, Germany in 2015.

The U.S. have won nine of the 14 previous editions of The Solheim Cup, including four-of-the-last-six.