Rose Zhang (L) & Gabriela Ruffels face off for the 120th U.S. Women's Amateur Championship
There have been 12 winners in the 120-year history of the U.S. Women’s Amateur to win consecutive titles. Seven past champs have won two in a row and five have gone on to win a remarkable three consecutive Robert Cox Cups.
Gabriella Ruffels has an opportunity to add her name to that list.
Beginning the day with a match against AmateurGolf.com’s No. 1 ranked player, Emilia Migliaccio, Ruffels found herself in a familiar position; losing while standing on the ninth tee. 2 down to Micgliaccio, Ruffels bounced back with wins on Nos. 9 and 10 to bring the match back to all-square. The stalemate lasted through the par-4 14th when Migliaccio won the par-5 15th with a birdie to go 1 up. Ruffels countered with a win on the par-3 16th.
Matching each other with pars on No. 17, the highly anticipated match came down to the 18th. Both Ruffels and Migliaccio were roughly equidistant on their approach shots. Migliaccio threw her second shot to roughly 40-feet, leaving the door open for Ruffels. Capitalizing on the opportunity, Ruffels put her second inside 10-feet.
Needing just one more putt to fall to have a chance, Migliaccio, who had her flat stick rolling throughout match play, singed the cup from deep for a conceded par. Ruffels knocked her birdie in to knock out the Wake Forest senior.
After a 15-minute break, Ruffels faced 2-seed Valery Plata (Michigan State) who defeated Florida’s Kennedy Swann 1 up to advance to the semifinals.
Wasting no time, Ruffels took a 1 up lead on the second hole. Plata countered on the par-5 3rd and took a 1 up lead of her own on the par-5 5th, her lone lead of the match. Plata’s lead was shortlived as Ruffels brought the match back to all square on the 6th. Settling in nicely, Ruffels led for the first time all week as she stood on the ninth tee 1 up.
Though 12 holes, Ruffels built upon her slim lead with a win on 13 which was immediately countered on 14 by Plata. Parring the par-3 16th for the second time on Saturday, she accrued a 2 up lead with just two to play. Plata, with her back to the wall, could only muster a halve of the par-4 17th, giving Ruffels a 2 up victory and her second-straight championship match appearance.
“Winning the U.S. Women’s Amateur for the second time would mean everything,” Ruffels told the USGA. “I know the list of names that have won it twice and I’d love to join them. It’s the biggest tournament in women’s amateur golf and it would be an honor.”
On the other side of the bracket was Ruffels’ Southern California teammate Alyaa Abdulghany.
Abdulghany faced University of Virginia’s Riley Smyth in the quarterfinals, winning 2&1 to take on 17-year-old Rose Zhang in the semis. Zhang, a 2019 U.S. Girls' Junior Amateur quarterfinalist, secured her semifinals spot by beating Auburn’s Kaleigh Telfer 2&1 in the morning session.
A Stanford verbal commit, Zhang played spoiler to an all-USC championship match, never letting Abdulghany take the lead over the course of the match. Jumping out to a 1 up lead through No. 1, Zhang built a 3 up lead on Abdulghany as the two made the turn at Woodmont Country Club.
Abdulghany attempted to rally with wins on holes Nos. 11 and 12 to bring Zhang’s lead to just 1 up. Unable to gain any more ground through holes Nos. 13-16, Zhang capped the match with a birdie on the par-4 17th.
The soon to be high school senior has a tall task ahead of her on Sunday as she will face the defending U.S. Women’s Amateur champion.
“It's surreal because I watched her win the Women's Amateur last year, and it just makes me feel so honored to play with her since she's such an amazing player and an amazing person," Zhang said. "I'm just going to go out there and have fun tomorrow and try my best.”
As for Ruffels, she will use last year as a reminder to stay in the moment.
“I feel like it's the same, very similar to last year," Ruffels said. "I’ll definitely draw on that experience. This championship is so crazy, with mixed emotions all the time. It’s like a roller coaster. I'm just so happy right now.”
By advancing to the championship match, both players gained exemptions into the 2021 U.S. Women's Open at Olympic Club.
The 36-hole championship match will be broadcasted on Golf Channel beginning at 1:00 pm ET.
ABOUT THE U.S. Women's Amateur
The U.S. Women's Amateur, the third
the USGA championships, was first played
at Meadowbrook Club in Hempstead, N.Y.
event is open to any female amateur who
USGA Handicap Index not exceeding 5.4.
Women's Amateur is one of 14 national
championships conducted annually by the
10 of which are strictly for amateurs.
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