UCLA Women Win NCAA Championship

UCLA parried a challenge by defending champion Purdue to win the NCAA Division I Women's Golf Championship by four strokes Saturday. LSU freshman Austin Ernst won the individual title by three shots after firing a 6-under 66 that included a hole-in-one and shot to take the individual title. The event was played at the Traditions Club in Bryan, Texas.

The Bruins enjoyed a seven-stroke lead through 54 holes, but trailed early in the fourth round before getting the lead back. UCLA was helped after Purdue's Thea Hoffmeister was disqualified for signing a scorecard lower than she shot. As a result, Purdue had to count Maude-Aimee LeBlanc's 77 and UCLA's lead became four strokes as the last groups played the final hole.

The Bruins, who also won the title in 1991 and 2004, finished at 21-over 1,173. "It was pretty intense out there," UCLA coach Carrie Forsyth told reporters. "We were not playing very well and it got too close for comfort for a while and we started to come back a little bit and make some birdies."

Forsyth also coached the 2004 champions. "The first time is amazing and after the first time you wonder if you can ever do it again, if you can ever match that team," she said. "This time it's different but it's completely just as awesome as the first time."

Purdue finished at 25 over and Hoffmeister was crying long after her mistake was discovered. Purdue coach Devon Brouse said it was a tough way for the Boilermakers to end the tournament. "We shouldn't have to teach that lesson many more times, because if you do that at the NCAA championship the last round, it obviously has consequences," he said.

"When those last couple of groups came up here and you look over at UCLA's team and they (have) arms around each other and they know they're a couple of shots ahead, then our girls have their chins down with those last couple of girls putting for those birdies it's a different deal," Brouse said.

Ernst aced the second hole and had six birdies, helping LSU to a third-place finish at 29 over. Ernst became the first freshman to win since Southern California's Jennifer Rosales in 1998. She completed 72 holes in 7-under 281 to beat Kelli Shean of Arkansas (68) by three.

"Coming down the stretch my nerves were really good," said Ernst. "I handled that real well. I hit a lot of good shots."

She also carded a 66 in the second round but ballooned to a 5-over 77 Saturday. After the hole-in-one, she made a 60-foot birdie putt on the third hole. "The ace and the bomb on the next hole, it was kind of like: 'OK this could be my day,' " she said. "I just wanted to keep it going. I didn't want to get ahead of myself."