Date: August 11, 2019
Author: Martin Blake

Ruffels lines up shot at history

Australia’s Gabriela Ruffels is on the cusp of history.

No Australian has won in 119 years of the US Women's Amateur Championship, but Ruffels has barged into the final of the prestigious competition at Old Waverly Golf Club in Mississippi.

The 19-year-old Melburnian will play Albane Valenzuela, of Switzerland, in the 36-hole final late tonight Australian time.

Ruffels, who is studying at the University of Southern California, beat American Andrea Lee at the 18th hole 2-up in their semi-final.

Two-up with two to play, Ruffels watched Lee make a clutch birdie at the 17th that prolonged the battle, and at the 18th Lee found trouble and the Australian hit a beautiful seven iron over the flag that set up the win.

In her first US Amateur appearance, the teenager has been superb, seeking to be the first of her countrywomen to win the title. Remarkably, she only took up golf at 15 after a stellar junior tennis career in Orlando, Florida, where she was born. Her elder brother is the professional golfer Ryan, currently playing on feeder US PGA Tours, and both her father Ray and mother Anna Maria were tennis professionals.

“It would be great (to have that distinction as first Aussie to win),” Ruffels said after her round. “I’m not really going to think about that, just going to kind of focus on my game, keep doing what I’m doing, and if that’s the result at the end of the day, then I’ll be super happy. But even just making it to the final and getting that opportunity to kind of try and get the title is really great.”

Ruffels, who recently won the North and South Amateur at Pinehurst in North Carolina, has joined Adelaide's Anne-Marie Knight and Hobart's Lindy Goggin as the only Aussie women to reach the final.

Her opponent tonight, Valenzuela, 21, plays under the Swiss flag, but grew up in both Switzerland and Mexico as well and is studying in the American college system. It is her second appearance in the final, having lost 6&5 to Sophia Schubert at San Diego Country Club in 2017.

The final begins at 8.30am local time Sunday (11.30pm AEST).