Gutsy Gabi alone at the American top

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(Photo: USGA)

You often hear a player who has just won a career-determining title say that the moment has yet to sink.

What you don't hear often is that they have just received a message that a shiver – a good one – has sent their backbone.

Gabi Ruffels had both moments today.

After starting competitive golf just four years ago, the Victorian scored a top never reached by an Australian to become the US Women & # 39; s Amateur champion in 2019.

With a generally reserved finish for the sports elite, Ruffels birdied four of the last five holes of an epic 36-hole final against Albane Valenzuela in Switzerland to win 1-up with a concluding putt for the ages.

Throw in that her coach and caddy from the University of Southern California Justin Silverstein had to leave to attend a funeral with four holes to play, and the script is approaching fairytale proportions.

But to close it all off, the spine.

No less a legend than seven-time great champion Karrie Webb, himself ranked high among the major attackers of the game, sent a tweet that said it all.

"Incredible finish … birdies on four of the last five to win it! When I grow up, I want to beat my irons like Gabi!" Tweeted webb.

Ruffles were stunned.

"I have known Karrie for 2-3 years, I met her at the Australian Open, and I am absolutely happy that she has shown interest in me and my golf," said the Melburnian.

"But yes, that gave me a shiver. It's hard to understand that.

"She also sent me a few private messages. I'm so honored, I can't believe it."

The delightful daughter of two tennis champions, Ruffels only started golf competitive in 2015.

She went to the United States to complete her studies, but was keenly aware of a flood of support from home, including many at her home base, the Victoria Golf Club.

"I am a proud Australian. I started playing golf there," she said.

"I have a huge support system there and not only to win it for myself, but everyone at home is huge, and it simply means the world."

And the world is coming to Ruffels now … and fast.

With today's win at the Old Waverly Golf Club in Mississippi, the 19-year-old won a gold medal from the USGA and custody of the Robert Cox Trophy for a year along with her name on a plaque in the Hall of Champions at the USGA Golf museum.

She received an exemption for the US Women & # 39; s Open 2020 as a professional or amateur; strictly as an amateur, she will also receive invitations for Augusta National Women & # 39; s Amateur of April, followed by the right to play the 2020 ANA Inspiration, Women & # 39; s British Open and Evian championships, as well as a 10-year-old exemption in the American Women & # 39; s Amateur field.

Ruffels, who is an emerging junior at her university base, is known for her education to be paramount, so there is little chance that those exemptions will become invalid next year.

And it all came after a finish for the ages.

With fatigue creeping in, a shortage with one hole and her familiar caddy about to leave, Ruffels said she was getting a shot of adrenaline with a bird to halve the 32nd hole.

Mississippi State University student Blair Stockett took the bag at the 33rd hole and Ruffels immediately leveled with a two-pit birdie in the par five.

The 34th hole was halved in bogeys, which led to arguably the critical moment of the week – a tee-shot to a pin at the back left on the 153m par-three 35th hole with water to the left of the green.

"I hit a good one there when we played it for the first time and I knew I had the right club, so I hit one with a 6-iron and it was almost perfect," Ruffels said.

"That was a pretty big moment because Albane played really well.

"I knew I could do it or it could be a disaster, but I don't really look back on that now because I will never play that shot again.

"But yes, super happy it worked."

The resulting 2m birdie putt gave Ruffels a 1-up lead that looked even better when she reached a commercial approach to the center of the 36th green, just 4 m above the cup.

But not to be surpassed, Valenzuela played her own spectacular shot to give almost reach to increase the pressure on the young Aussie.

With Stockett – who regularly trains and plays at Old Waverly – in her ear, Ruffels said she wanted to give herself a gimme-putt to at least return the Stanford opponent to the heat.

"I said to Blair," This goes a lot to the left. "And she is like," Yes, that's it. And it really goes downhill really fast. "

"Yes, just trying to match the line and speed a bit and seeing only that ball rolling into the hole is special.

"She made it so clear. She made me feel so comfortable. And to be honest, I didn't think the last putt at 18 was underway, but given it just invaded, it's probably the best feeling of my life

"This is what you dream of as a child when you start playing golf. This is the largest championship in amateur golf."

But don't expect Ruffels to relax or lose her focus on the next agenda.

"Winning a championship like this gives you recognition and opportunities and I look forward to it," she said.

"But (I) will still keep my head down and work hard – I still have many things to do."

You get the strong feeling that whatever that goal is, it will be well within Ruffels reach.


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