Ruffels becomes first Aussie to win US Women’s Amateur

Australia’s Gabi Ruffels has become the first Australian to win the US Women’s Amateur following a tense see-sawing 36-hole match against Albane Valenzuela in Mississippi overnight.

The battle for the top honour in women’s amateur golf lasted almost eight hours and was a rollercoaster of emotions for both players as the lead changed hand so many times across the day.

“It’s been kind of a blur…but this is amazing. This is what you dream of as a kid when you start playing golf, winning tournaments like this.”

“This is the biggest championship in amateur golf. I’m still speechless. But I guess that shows how much it means to me,” said Ruffels.

“It’s amazing [to be the first Australian to win the title]. I’m a proud Australian. That’s where I started playing golf.”

Gabi Ruffels Gabi Ruffels (Credit: USGA)

“I have such a huge support system back there, and to win it not only for myself but everyone back home is huge, and it just means the world.”

Valenzuela made her presence felt early going 2-up across the first four holes before Ruffels was able to wrestle back the match with a birdie at the par-4 5th hole.

A string of four birdies from the Australian beginning at the 8th took her to a 3-up lead over Valenzuela.

However, Valenzuela was not done with the tournament just yet and made four birdies of her own between the 12th and 16th holes to go 1-up until Ruffels brought the first 18 to a close at all-square with another birdie.

The second 18-holes proved to be a different affair with both players trading birdies back and forth and unable to put together a run at the title as the heat and pressure starting taking its toll.

Valenzuela would go 1-up and Ruffels would birdie soon after to bring the match back to all-square.

The birdie duel continued right until the end of the tournament where Ruffels took the match back to all-square at the par-5 33rd hole before finally sealing the deal at the 35th hole to go 1-up.

Both players parred the final hole and Switzerland’s Valenzuela rued yet another missed chance for US Amateur glory.

“It’s tough, and it will be even tougher tonight, but I fought really hard,” said Valenzuela, who also finished runner-up at the 2017 US Women’s Amateur.

Ruffels was the third Australian grand finalist, following in the footsteps of Lindy Goggin, mother of former PGA Tour player, Mathew, in 1981 and Anne-Marie Knight in 1995.

Ruffels is the daughter of former pro tennis players Ray Ruffels and Anna-Maria Fernandez and the sister of 21-year-old Ryan Ruffels, who currently plays on the Canadian Tour and is showing signs that he also has a very promising future in the sport.

“I just FaceTimed my brother straight after. He was with my dad. They’re in Canada right now. They said they were watching the whole thing. And I couldn’t really talk then, either. I’ll have to call them back when I kind of get my words back.”

Ruffels earns a 10-year exemption into the US Women’s Amateur as well as an exemption into the 2020 US Women’s Open at Champions Golf Club in Houston, Texas.

The 19-year-old also earns an invitation to next April’s Augusta National Women’s Amateur as well as invitations to the ANA Inspiration, Women’s British Open and Evian championships, provided she is still an amateur.

Doey Choi and Steph Kyriacou were the next best of the Aussies making it to the round of 64 before bowing out.

Becky Kay, Jessica Whitting, Amelia Grohn and Sue Wooster were bundled out in strokeplay.