Ertl's Turtles were almost squashed into submission Saturday, but they came back in full force yesterday.

The object of their adoration was Sue Ertl, who fell from the second-round lead with a 79 Saturday, but came back strong yesterday for a 69 -- 285, a fourth-place finish and a check for $52,500, her biggest ever. Her round included an eagle on the par-5 12th hole.

Some of the warmest applause of this LPGA Championship was reserved for the Riverview, Mich., pro as she approached the final green.

"Every golfer probably felt for me," said Ertl, an animated 32-year-old who has been on tour for 8 1/2 years. "That proves a lot to me. That I can hang in there and recover. It's behind me."

Also behind Ertl is a rough-and-tumble Saturday round. She began the day with the lead but hopped on the bogey train and fell seven back.

"It's very humbling, making mistakes in front of all those people," Ertl said after struggling all over the Bethesda Country Club course. "I wouldn't call it a collapse. I'd call it a series of bogeys as opposed to a series of pars. I think people here are very golf educated. They know good golf and certainly expect it."

Yesterday Ertl regained her form, hitting the ball straight with a choked-up grip. After she took a double bogey on the par-3 11th hole, Ertl had words for her caddie: "I said, 'Let's see if we can get a couple back.' " She did that right away, pitching a 45-yard sand wedge into the hole for the eagle.

She added a birdie on the following hole and sank a long putt for another birdie on the 15th. Ertl completed the fine comeback round by making an excellent lag from 85 feet to two feet on the final green and sinking the par putt. "It was the biggest roller coaster round I've ever shot for 69," said Ertl.

The Ertl's Turtles, well-recognized in their turtle T-shirts, came about after Ertl gave a clinic and talk to a girls golf association in Richmond.

"The turtles had gone into their shells, but they came out today," declared head turtle Rose Hunter of Richmond.