ROCKVILLE, Md. – Gabriela Ruffels keeps falling behind and keeps winning her matches in the U.S. Women´s Amateur, leaving her only one match away from becoming the first back-to-back winner in nearly a decade.
Ruffels never led in her quarterfinal match Saturday until she made a 10-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole at Woodmont Country Club to beat Emilia Maigliaccio. Then, the 20-year-old from Australia fell 2 down through five holes in the semifinals against Valery Plata. Ruffels rebounded quickly, holed a 40-foot birdie putt on the 13th to go 2 up and won, 2 and 1.
Next up is a 36-hole championship against 17-year-old Rose Zhang of California, who won both her matches on the 17th hole.
Ruffels now has won 11 consecutive matches, the longest streak to start a U.S. Women´s Amateur career since Dorothy Campbell won 13 straight in 1909 to 1911. She will try to become the fifth player to successfully defend, and the first since Danielle Kang in 2011.
“Winning the U.S. Women´s Amateur for the second time would mean everything,” Ruffels said. “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.”
Getting to the semifinals was hard work. She fell behind on the front nine with bogeys on both par 5s, but won the ninth and 10th holes with par to square the match. Migliaccio took a 1-up lead when Ruffels bogeyed the 15th, and the Aussie squared the match with an 18-foot birdie putt on the par-3 16th.
That set the stage for the final hole. Migliaccio hit her approach to 35 feet, and Ruffels took advantage of a great drive by gong after the flag with an 8-iron from 144 yards to about 10 feet away for the winning birdie.
“That was a huge relief,” Ruffels said.
Zhang recorded a 2-and-1 victory over Kaleigh Telfer of South Africa in the morning, and then dispatched of Alyaa Abdulghany of Malaysia by the same score in the afternoon.
Zhang and Abdulghany combined for 10 birdies, with Zhang making four of them through eight holes to build a 3-up lead. The last one was a 40-footer on No. 8.
“I was really feeling that birdie on No. 8,” said Zhang, the No. 9 player female amateur in the world. “From then on, I just tried to keep the momentum going.”
Now she faces Ruffels, going for another title.
“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.”