Playing the front nine at the Traditions Club second, Ernst birdied her last three holes to finish just one stroke shy of the course record held by three players, including teammate Megan McChrystal at the Fall Preview last year.
“I’ve hit the ball really well this spring and it’s just been a matter of getting some putts to drop,” Ernst said. “Once I make one, I feel confident I can make a few. I just played solid golf and hit all my spots.”
Ernst, who shot an even-par 72 in the first round, had seven birdies Thursday.
“I was hitting OK (Wednesday) and (Thursday) I tried to stay more on top of the ball and I hit it a lot better,” Ernst said. “I missed one shot all day and that was the drive on 3 (bogey). I played smart most of the day and went for pins that I could get to.”
Purdue’s Numa Gulyanamitta was three strokes back after a 70.
UCLA shot a 7-over 295 on Thursday for an 8-over 584 total. Purdue, tied for third with LSU after the first round, matched UCLA at 7 over in the second round to move into second place.
“You can’t feel bad about the position we’re in,” Purdue coach Devon Brouse said. “I really felt like both days we left some out there the last couple of holes, but I’m sure every coach here could say that.”
Brouse said the wind was a factor Thursday.
“I didn’t blow quite as hard as I thought it was going to (but) it was tricky,” he said. “It was swirling and I think it fooled all the players quite a few times today. I know it fooled our players a few times.”
UCLA’s Tiffany Lua was in a three-way tie for third after her second straight 1-under 71.
LSU was third at 12-over 588 and host Texas A&M jumped from sixth after the first day to fourth at 13-over 589. The Aggies were leading at a couple of points during their back nine, but struggled on the 15th and 16th holes to fall into fourth.
“No, (I’m) not completely satisfied, but I said to myself at the beginning of the day that if we went out and shot what we did yesterday, today that I would be satisfied with it,” A&M coach Trelle McCombs said about her team which improved by one stroke in the second round. “But knowing that we gave some shots away on 15 and 16, that obviously left a little mark. The thing about it is that we kept ourselves in it, we didn’t take ourselves out of it.”
Top-ranked Southern California and No. 3 Alabama struggled again, tying for 15th with 28-over 604 totals.
Virginia’s Brittany Altomare, the individual leader after shooting a 3-under 69 in the first round, had a 3-over 75 to end the second day in a four-way tie for sixth.