12 Aug 2019 | Amateur golf |
History for Ruffels at US Women's Amateur
by Martin Blake
Gabriela Ruffels has created her own little bit of Australian history.
Ruffels, 19, became the first Australian in the 119-year history of the US Women’s Amateur to take the title when she beat Switzerland’s Albane Valenzuela 1-up in the 36-hole final at Old Waverly Golf Club in Mississippi today.
The win follows her triumph at the North and South amateur in the lead-up, and confirms her status as one of Australia’s most promising golfers.
Remarkably, she only took up golf at 15 having been part of the national elite programs of tennis. Both her parents, Ray and Anna Maria, were touring professional tennis players and both Gabriela and Ryan, her elder brother, were born in Florida, where the Ruffels were the tennis pros at the Isleworth community where many professional golfers reside.
They grew up in Australia however, with Ryan ultimately turning professional and going on the PGA Tour’s South American swing as well as in Canada, and Gabi has entered the American college system, studying at the University of Southern California.
In an epic final, Ruffels birdied the last two holes to close it out, rolling in a beautiful, curling four-metre putt at the 36 hole to ensure that she won the title. She had broken the tie with a birdie at the 35th hole, but in truth it was an epic final, with all kinds of swings in momentum.
Ruffels was 3-up through 11 holes of the morning session, having made three consecutive birdies from the eighth to the 10th, but she lost the advantage by the 17th, and the Swiss player, two years her senior, was either leading or tied for the lead for most of the afternoon session.
Only two Australians – Anne Marie Knight and Lindy Goggin – had ever reached the US Women’s Amateur final before.
Valenzuela is the more experienced player; also in the college system in the US and a finalist in the US Amateur in 2017.
Ruffels is a phenomenon. As a junior at USC, she earned All-American second team and All-Pac-12 first team honors. She has represented both Victoria and Australia at amateur level and having taken up golf after her brother Ryan, she stunned observers with how quickly she picked the game up.
"Tennis did help me," she said this week. "Kind of the athlete mentality, and dealing with pressure. But also kind of watching my brother play, I wasn’t too new that I didn’t know what was going on. I was always that little sister, watching my brother play. I also work pretty hard I feel like, to play golf. My work ethic has transferred over from my tennis.”
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