Gabi Ruffels with the US Women & # 39; s Amateur Trophy today. Image: USGA
Gabriela Ruffels has made her own piece of Australian history.
Ruffels, 19, became the first Australian in the 119-year history of the American women's amateur to take the title when she today defeated Switzerland's Albane Valenzuela 1-up in the 36-hole final at Old Waverly Golf Club in Mississippi.
The win follows her triumph with the North and South amateur in the run-up and confirms her status as one of Australia's most promising golfers.
Remarkably, she only started playing golf when she was 15 and was part of the national elite tennis program. Both her parents, Ray and Anna Maria, were on tour with professional tennis players and both Gabriela and Ryan, her older brother, were born in Florida, where the Ruffels were the tennis pros at the Isleworth community where many professional golfers live.
However, they grew up in Australia, where Ryan eventually became professional and went on the South American swing of the PGA Tour, as well as in Canada, and Gabi joined the American university system and studied at the University of Southern California.
In an epic final, Ruffels ruffles the last two holes to close it, rolling into a beautiful, curly four-meter putt at the 36 holes to ensure that she won the title. She had broken the tie with a birdie at the 35th hole, but in reality it was an epic finale, with all sorts of swings accelerating.
Gabi Ruffels today makes the winning four-meter putt. Image: USGA
Ruffels was 3-up through 11 holes of the morning session after having made three consecutive birdies from the eighth to the tenth, but she lost the advantage by the 17th and the Swiss player, two years older, was leading or bound for the lead for most of the afternoon session.
Only two Australians – Anne Marie Knight and Lindy Goggin – had ever reached the American final for women amateurs.
Valenzuela is the more experienced player; also in the college system in the US and a finalist in the American amateur in 2017.
Ruffels is a phenomenon. As a junior at USC she gained All-American second team and All-Pac-12 first team honor. She has represented both Victoria and Australia at amateur level, and after taking up golf after her brother Ryan, she surprised observers with how quickly she picked up the game.
"Tennis helped me," she said this week. "Kind of the athlete mentality and dealing with pressure. But also watching my brother play a little, I wasn't too new that I didn't know what was going on. I was always that little sister, watching my brother play. I also work quite hard, I feel like playing golf. My work ethic has shifted from my tennis. "