Gabriela Ruffels has stepped to the ninth tee trailing in all three of her matches this week in the 120th U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship. Each time the defending champion dug deep and mounted a comeback to earn her spot in the quarterfinals at Woodmont Country Club.
Ruffels, 20, of Australia, defeated Kajal Mistry on Thursday, then took down 2019 U.S. Girls’ Junior champion Lei Ye, 2 up, on Friday morning and Teresa Toscano Borrero, 4 and 2, in the afternoon. In all three matches, Ruffels hit her stride in the middle of the round. Between the ninth and 16th, she won a combined 14 holes and lost just one, swinging each match in her favor.
“No. 9 has been a big turning point for me,” said Ruffels, who has advanced farther than any defending champion since Danielle Kang in 2011. “If I can be close heading to the back nine, then I feel like I have an advantage.”
In the most thrilling match of the day – and longest of the championship – Emilia Migliaccio outlasted Megan Schofill in 22 holes. With the match tied on the 18th, Schofill nearly holed her 150-yard approach shot, leading to a conceded birdie, but with the match in the balance, Migliaccio drained a 15-foot putt – punctuated by a fist pump and boisterous scream – to force extra holes.
The players halved the first two holes with pars before Migliaccio appeared poised to win it on the par-5 21st, but she lipped out her 4-foot birdie putt. Undeterred, she rolled in a 15-foot birdie putt for the hard-fought victory on the next hole.
“I’m just so happy,” said Migliaccio, the No. 4 player in the Women’s World Amateur Golf Ranking (WAGR). “This is the first time I’ve ever been in extra holes in match play. I really want this thing, so I really fought for it.”
It has been nearly three decades since the No. 1 seed won the Women’s Amateur and that drought will continue after Rose Zhang’s comeback victory over medalist Rachel Heck. Zhang, 17, of Irvine, Calif., was 2 down through 12 holes, but won four of the next five to knock off Heck.
“I already knew that my ball-striking wasn’t my ‘A’ game,” said Zhang, the No. 9 player in the WAGR. “I just had to stick in there mentally. I just thought about doing whatever it takes to put the ball in play and give myself some chances.”
The highest seed remaining, No. 2 Valery Plata, has not trailed at any point in her three matches and posted victories over Zoe Campos and Tyler Akabane on Friday to earn a spot in the quarterfinals.
The Michigan State junior sprinted out to a quick lead, winning the first three holes against Akabane. After Akabane cut into the lead with a two-putt birdie on the par-5 10th, Plata, 19, of Colombia, won the next two holes with pars en route to her 4-and-3 victory.
The quarterfinal round is scheduled to begin at 7 a.m. EDT on Saturday, with the semifinals to follow at 12:45 p.m. EDT. Live coverage on Golf Channel begins at 1 p.m. EDT.
The 36-hole championship match will be played on Sunday.
All quarterfinalists are exempt into next year’s U.S. Women’s Amateur at Westchester Country Club in Rye, N.Y.
Three U.S. Women’s Amateur champions – Danielle Kang (2010, 2011), Lydia Ko (2012) and Kristen Gillman (2014, 2018) – are in the top 5 through 36 holes at this week’s Marathon LPGA Classic.
Heck’s loss in the Round of 16 means the No. 1 seed will not win the U.S. Women’s Amateur for the 29th consecutive year. In 2008, Amanda Blumenherst was a co-medalist, but played as the No. 2 seed when she won the title.
Ruffels won the ninth and 14th holes in all three of her matches.
Swann’s family drove an RV from their home in Austin, Texas, to Woodmont Country Club, stopping to camp in the Blue Ridge Mountains. The entire Swann family is staying in an RV park in Gaithersburg, Md., this week.
Swann went to Westlake High School in Austin, Texas, the same school that produced Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks Nick Foles and Drew Brees.
Migliaccio is a published author who wrote her first novel, “Just an Illusion,” in 2018.
Migliaccio also has a final project due on Saturday for a summer class in sports business.
Riley Smyth has gone to the 18th hole or beyond in all three of her matches. She has played 57 holes in match play, the most of any competitor.
There are two players from Cary, N.C., in the quarterfinals – Smyth and Migliaccio.
Kayleigh Telfer trailed for 14 holes in her come-from-behind win in the Round of 32 against Emily Mahar.
In Rachel Kuehn’s 3-and-1 victory over Brooke Matthews in the Round of 32, the competitors combined for 14 birdies in 17 holes.
USC has two players remaining in the field, the most of any college (Ruffels and Abdulghany).
USGA Tour Release, Aug 08, 2020