Gabriela Ruffels played her final 15 holes bogey-free at the US Women's Amateur this morning to advance to the match play, with fellow Aussies Emily Mahar and Kirsty Hodgkins, while American Rachel Heck took medallist honours.
Heck gained national attention when she made the cut at the 2017 U.S. Women’s Open as a 15-year-old. Now three years later, she has loftier aspirations than just playing the weekend.
Heck shot a 1-under 71 in the second round of stroke play to earn medalist honours at the 120th U.S. Women’s Amateur at Woodmont Country Club. Her 36-hole total of 4-under 140 made her one of just seven players to break par in stroke play, the fewest since 2014.
Heck, 18, of Memphis, Tennessee, is competing in her fourth consecutive U.S. Women’s Amateur. On Wednesday, she birdied four of her first eight holes.
“The course is in perfect condition,” said Heck, an incoming freshman at Stanford University. “It’s pretty tight, so we were focusing on hitting fairways, hitting greens, not trying to do anything crazy. That's kind of been my game plan and it's worked out well so far.”
Three players finished two strokes behind Heck at 2-under 142 – Phoebe Brinker, Valery Plata and the fourth-ranked player in the World Amateur Golf Ranking, Emilia Migliaccio. First-round co-leader, Rachel Kuehn, rebounded from a tough start to earn the No. 8 seed. Starting on the 10th hole, she bogeyed the 11th and triple bogeyed the 12th before playing even-par golf the rest of the way.
Playing with Kuehn, defending champion Gabriela Ruffels bogeyed two of her first three holes, but played her final 15 holes bogey-free. Three birdies coming in led to a 1-under 71 and earned her the No. 6 seed in her title defence.
“With everything going on, I did not think that they were going to hold the event. I didn't think that any sporting events were going to come back until next year. But once I found out, I was super excited and super happy to be back here and try and get it again,” Ruffels said of defending her title.
Other notable players to make the match-play field include first-round co-leader Riley Smyth, 2019 U.S. Women’s Open low-amateur Gina Kim and 2019 U.S. Women’s Amateur semifinalist Megha Ganne.
The biggest turnaround of the day belonged to Kajal Mistry. The 19-year-old who represented South Africa in the 2018 Women’s World Amateur Team Championship tied the low round of the day with a 3-under 69 – an improvement of 12 strokes from her opening 81. She then survived a 15-for-6 playoff with a birdie on the first playoff hole (Woodmont’s eighth) to punch her ticket into match play.
In addition to Mistry, Katherine Zhu, Auston Kim, Therese Warner, Gurleen Kaur and Haylin Harris emerged from the playoff to make match play.