U.S. Women's Am champ Ruffels ready to compete against the men
Gabriela Ruffels (USGA photo)
Gabriela Ruffels (USGA photo)

The 59th edition of the Jacksonville Amateur Championship, sponsored and conducted by the Jacksonville Area Golf Association (JAGA), gets underway Thursday at Jax Beach Golf Club in Jacksonville Beach. The 54-hole championship will crown its 2020 champion on Saturday.

University of North Florida assistant golf coach Jordan Batchelor of San Jose Country Club will defend.

For the first time in the 59-year history of the Jacksonville Amateur female contestants will compete. The trio includes Gabriela Ruffels of Melbourne, Australia, Tori Mouton of St. Johns, Fla. and Hannah Stevens of Jacksonville.

Ruffels is the reigning U.S. Women’s Amateur champion, having claimed the prestigious USGA title last August in Mississippi. The rising University of Southern California junior also claimed last summer’s North and South title at Pinehurst Resort in North Carolina. “Gabi” is the daughter of former professional tennis players Ray and AnnaMaria Ruffels. Her older brother Ryan Ruffels has status on the PGA TOUR’s Korn Ferry Tour.

“In this day and age, with so much changing, maybe it should be more normal for women to play in tournaments that were all men,” said Ruffels to the Garry Smits of the Florida Times-Union. “Girls are hitting the ball farther and I think we’re under-estimated sometimes, especially in golf. We’ll see. I’m excited to go play there.”

USC assistant coach Katie Mitchell is confident that Ruffels will be comfortable playing the same tees as the men.

“She plays a ton of golf with our men’s team and her brother and she’s very comfortable playing side-by-side with men,” said Mitchell to Smits. “She hits it a long way, hits her irons well and loves firm and fast courses. She won’t be intimidated at all.”

Mouton won the 2019 JAGA First Coast Women’s Amateur at Eagle Harbor Golf Club in Fleming Island. She will begin her junior year at The Bolles School in Jacksonville next month.

Stevens was awarded a JAGA scholarship last month and in August is bound for Flagler College in St. Augustine where she will play golf for the Saints. She is a regular at Jax Beach Golf Club.

The championship features 84 entries, 15 of which are in a category which accepts entries from outside JAGA’s Northeast Florida footprint. The 15 hail from all over the state of Florida, and Georgia and Illinois, plus Australia and Ecuador.

The field was increased from 78 to 84 last week due to significant demand and a growing alternates list and host Jax Beach Golf Club’s reputation as a faster-playing golf course.

Contestants range in age from 16 to 66.

Past champions David Anthony (2006) and Duke Butler IV (2009) will join Batchelor at Jax Beach, all in pursuit of their second Amateur title.

The North Florida Junior Golf Foundation will be represented via its two exemptions extended to Andrew Davis of Fleming Island, Fla. and Cody Carroll of Jacksonville who plays for Coach Scott Schroeder and Batchelor at UNF.

Handicap index eligibility is limited to six. Fifty-one contestants are registered with handicap indexes of scratch (0) or plus-digits.

The contestants will face a par-71 layout of approximately 6,700 yards.

The first tee time all three days will be approximately 7:30. A cut will be made after 36 holes, with the top 39 and ties vying for the title on Saturday.

ABOUT THE Jacksonville Amateur

54-hole stroke play tournament with a 36-hole cut to the low half of the field plus ties. Open to those players with an index of 6.0 or less. There will be a maximum of 78 players in the field. The majority of players reside in JAGA’s North Florida region, with entries accepted from up to 15 players who reside outside the region (in Florida and elsewhere).

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