Ruffels Run To Repeat U.S. Amateur Win Ends In Extra-Hole Final
Gabriela Ruffels' amazing run to defend her 2019 U.S. Amateur championship took her to the brink, and past it, but the Trojan All-American's putt to extend the 2020 title match to a third extra hole lipped agonizingly in and out Sunday (Aug. 9) at the Woodmont C.C. in Rockville, Md., abruptly ending her march for history.
A day earlier, senior teammate Alyaa Abdulghany – who had an impressive streak of four straight match play wins to reach her first semifinals – fell 2&1, to Rose Zhang. And it was Zhang who ultimately dethroned Ruffels with the 1up win in 38 holes in the longest U.S. Amateur match in 54 years and the second-longest ever behind the 41-hole thriller in 1966.
"You can't take any putt for granted out here. These greens are crazy fast, and that did have a little break to it," said Ruffels after the match. "I was playing it outside of the hole. I actually hit it on my line, it's just kind of a heartbreak seeing it horseshoe out. Rose was one of the toughest opponents. She never let the door open. She's so solid. I can't believe she's only 17. All credit to her."
Neither player led by more than two holes throughout the day. Like she did in her previous five matches this week, Ruffels fell behind early, albeit by two just holes. Zhang maintained that lead for most of the first half of the day before Ruffels birdied 18, heading to the break down 1.
Ruffels won holes 20 and 21 to briefly claim a one-hole lead but Zhang countered by taking the next two. Ruffels squared the match with a win on 25 and the pair split 30 and 31, remaining tied.
Both had chances to go ahead, but they halved the next six holes, setting up the drama on 38. Zhang had the title on her putter for the second hole in a row, but missed her winning roll. Ruffels, however, facing a trying three-footer with break, saw her match-extending putt cruelly rim out.
Ruffels, who was trying to become the first back-to-back winner of the Amateur since Danielle Kang in 2010-11, still earned an exemption in the 2021so U.S. Women's Open.
Ruffels beat Michigan State's Valery Plata, 2&1, in the semifinals after a 1up win over Emilia Migliaccio in the quarterfinals.
Abdulghany defeated Riley Smyth, 2&1, in the quarterfinals Saturday morning, to earn her semifinals berth, before falling to Zhang. Abdulghany beat Ellie Slama 2up in the round of 16, took care of Marissa Kirkwood 4&2 in the round of 32 and opened match play with a win over Kirsty Hodgkins by the same score.
Two other Trojans played in match play, but senior Allisen Corpuz and junior Malia Nam both fell in the round of 64.