Derek Ernst Adjusting to PGA Tour Life
February 7, 2013
PEBBLE BEACH – Just as his opening-round 74 at Spyglass Hill was, the past six months for Derek Ernst have been a roller coaster ride. On a day that included three birdies, three bogeys and a double-bogey, the Clovis native got as low as one-under and as high as three-over, before settling at his two-over par total to put himself in a tie for 115th place.
As Ernst mulled over his opening round, he couldn’t help but think he should have finished a few shots lower.
“I feel like my game is really good, I’m hitting the ball really well, I just did not get anything to go for me today,” he said. “Hopefully it evens out over the next couple days.”
Such is life in the capricious game of golf. It was only nine months ago that Ernst finished up his collegiate career at UNLV, and seven months ago he represented the NCGA as a member of its Morse Cup team at the Pacific Coast Amateur, but now the 22-year-old finds himself on the biggest stage in golf with exempt-status on the PGA Tour.
In December, the former NCGA member finished tied for 17th at what was the final Q-School ever for exempt-status on the PGA Tour. By finishing in the top-25 at the PGA West Course in Palm Springs, Ernst became one of the youngest golfers on tour for the 2013 season—he was born in 1990.
“It’s all happened so quickly,” he said. “I didn’t know what was going to happen I thought I was going to play on the Gateway [Tour], or maybe the Web.com [Tour]. But next thing I know I’m nine holes to go in Q-School after five and a half rounds, and I’m in the lead, and I thought, ‘Looks like I’m going to be on the [PGA] Tour next year.’”
So far the adjustment hasn’t been particularly easy, as Ernst has made only one cut in the three tournaments he’s been able to enter thus far, a tie for 59th place at the Sony Open in January. With the depth of talent and experience fellow PGA Tour members have, Ernst knows he has his hands full week-in and week-out.
“Usually in amateur tournaments I was always trying to win or get a top-10, but out here I feel like I’m putting extra pressure on myself, just because I’m playing with bigger names,” he said. “I think I’ll calm down though and get [used to it].”
While things haven’t proven easy Ernst still has big expectations in his first year as he says he hopes to finish in top-50 of the PGA Tour money list. However, at the end of the day, he recognizes the fortunate position he’s in.
“I’m just stoked to be here,” he said. “I’m 22-years-old, I didn’t know where I was going to be, so this is just a bonus, I’m going to try and enjoy it.”