Gabi Ruffels, reigning U.S. Women’s Am champ, relishes the challenge of playing the Jacksonville Amateur

Katie Mitchell tried to talk Gabi Ruffels out of it.

Ruffels, a University of Southern California sophomore, stood on the 18th tee of the Spanish Trail Country Club in Las Vegas last February during the final round of the Rebel Beach Showdown. Ruffels had a one-shot lead and faced a closing par 5 with water on the left and a huge fairway bunker on the right.

“She had a chance to win her first college event and I tried to get her to back off, to lay up,” said Mitchell, a USC assistant coach and a Fernandina Beach High School graduate. “But she wanted to hit driver off the tee and give herself the best chance to get there in two [shots]. She wanted to go for the kill shot.”

Ruffels birdied the hole and won by two.

“She was fully confident in hitting that shot,” Mitchell said. “She is never scared on the golf course. She takes dead aim.”

It’s that kind of confidence that has been behind Ruffels’ meteoric rise up the women’s college and amateur ranks in the five years since she took up golf at the age of 14, after admittedly getting burned out in junior tennis in her hometown of Sandringham, in Victoria, Australia.

In the past 14 months, Ruffels has earned second-team All-American and first-team All-Pac 12 honors, won the women’s U.S. Amateur and the North and South, climbing to 11th on the World Amateur Rankings.

And it’s the kind of confidence that led her to enter the Jacksonville Amateur July 23-25 at the Jacksonville Beach Golf Club. Ruffels became the first female to enter the tournament in its 59-year history (two area players, Hannah Stevens and Tori Mouton, have since entered) but she doesn’t view it as any kind of symbolism or herself as any kind of a pioneer.

After all, it’s been 12 years since Michelle Wie last played in a PGA Tour event and 17 years since Annika Sorenstam became the first woman to play on the PGA Tour, at the Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth.

“In this day and age, with so much changing, maybe it should be more normal for women to play in tournaments that were all men,” Ruffels said. “Girls are hitting the ball farther and I think we’re under-estimated sometimes, especially in golf. We’ll see. I’m excited to go play there.”

Jacksonville fit her schedule

The main reason Ruffels is playing in Jacksonville next week is simple: many women’s amateur tournaments leading up to the U.S. Amateur Aug. 3-9 at the Woodmont Country Club in Rockville, Maryland, have either been canceled or moved to later in the year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

When Ruffels and her mother were looking for possibilities in Florida (her brother Ryan, a member of the Korn Ferry Tour, lives in Orlando), they came across the Jacksonville Amateur.

They inquired about playing and Jacksonville Area Golf Association officials were only too happy to have a defending U

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By: Garry Smits
Title: Gabi Ruffels, reigning U.S. Women's Am champ, relishes the challenge of playing the Jacksonville Amateur
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Published Date: Sun, 19 Jul 2020 13:00:09 +0000

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