Top 10 female amateurs: No. 6 Austin Ernst

Austin Ernst hits her tee shot at No. 18 during the final round of LPGA Q-School. Ernst earned her LPGA Tour card.

The amateur season roared in with talk of the Curtis Cup in Scotland, and died down with the Women’s World Amateur Team Championship in Turkey, which made patriotism a big part of 2012. But in terms of women’s amateur golf, 2012 also was the year of the Kiwi (read: Lydia Ko) and the last summer of the Jutanugarn sisters.

Golfweek will spend 10 days counting down the top amateur players of the past year. Who will be No. 1? Who else will make the list? Check back each day. Find the entire series here.

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No. 6: Austin Ernst

R&A’s World Amateur Golf Ranking: N/A

2012 in review: Won North & South Women’s Amateur; U.S. Curtis Cup team; Women’s World Amateur Team Championship, U.S. team (T-66)

Ernst was arguably the biggest surprise player to turn professional in 2012. The 20-year-old LSU superstar announced plans early in the summer to try her hand at Q-School rather than return for her remaining two seasons with the Tigers.

Prior to that announcement, Ernst traveled to Scotland with seven fellow U.S. college players. She and Alabama’s Brooke Pancake made a spunky duo that drew a crowd.

One of the biggest personalities in college and amateur golf, Ernst ended 2012 considerably more grown-up than she entered it. She dropped her amateur status before the final stage of LPGA Q-School in favor of a “9 to 5” as a rookie rather than a student. Aside from the @AustinErnst92 Twitter handle she recently changed from her former @golfnasty – Ernst has a brand new tour card and has signed with Empire Sports for management.

“I just live the dream now,” Ernst said after earning that card. She spent the months leading up to final stage honing her game with dad (and caddie) Mark’s help at home in Seneca, S.C. Ernst had never played a professional event until the Kraft Nabisco Championship in April, but if she takes to the LPGA as quickly as she took to college golf – she won the individual title at the NCAA Championship as a freshman in 2011 – she’ll be just fine.

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