Gabi Ruffels didn’t have a cheering section.
But she did have experience.
And the right caddie.
Facing local phenom Nicole Adam in a tense back-and-forth match, Ruffels found herself in deep discussion with Brant Hunt, her local caddie from Pinehurst. They were left of the par-5 16th’s fairway on Pinehurst No. 2, Ruffels’ ball resting in pinestraw left of the native area.
But they could see the green.
And Hunt, after watching the 2018 Women’s North & South Amateur Runner-Up battle the pesky Adam in the Round of 32 match play all day, had already seen the shot.
“Brant just told me, ‘Take your hybrid, aim to the right and hit that same draw you’ve been hitting all day,’” Ruffels said. “I said, ‘Are you sure we shouldn’t lay up?’ And he said, ‘Nah, go for it.’”
Ruffels hit that searing draw, her ball catching just enough of the fringe right of the green to stay near the putting surface. After a comfortable two-putt birdie, Ruffels took a 1up lead to 17, where she finally closed out Adam, who had fought back from a 3-down deficit just nine holes into the match in the 117th playing of the North & South.
“It was a great fight,” said Ruffels, who hails from Australia and plays for Southern Cal. “I knew Nicole was the hometown favorite and she had a lot of Pinehurst members following her and rooting her on. She’s a great player, and I knew, even at 3-up, I could never take the lead for granted.”
Adam proved why. She birdied the 10th, parred the 11th and made another par at 13, wiping out the 21st-seeded Ruffels’ big lead in just four holes.
Ruffels came back with a birdie on 14 to re-take the lead, but Adam, seeded 12th after medal play, made a brilliant birdie on the par-3 15th to tie the match again.
“She’s just 17, but she’s a really, really good player who’s probably played No. 2 a million times,” Ruffels said. “When she birdied 15, all I could say was, ‘You deserve it. You birdie that hole, you deserve to win the hole.’”
Ruffels tugged her drive left on 16, but Adam, a North Carolina recruit, hit her second into the front-right bunker. Ruffels’ clutch draw from under the longleaf pines set up the closing moments of the match.
A year ago, Ruffels led late into the final match before champion Stephanie Lau hit her own dramatic shot into 16. Still, Ruffels believes that experience is helping her again this week.
“It definitely does help,” she said. “I think I played No. 2 six or seven times last year, and after a while, you begin to learn where you can miss and where to try to apply pressure in a match. This is one of the greatest and one of the toughest golf courses in the world, and I know that the experience I have here is helping me.”
When the match play draw was revealed after the second round on Tuesday afternoon, Aneka Seumanutafa and Brooke Sansom could only shake their heads.
They would meet again.
Exactly two years and 12 days to the day, Seumanutafa, seeded 8th, and Sansom, the 25th seed, faced off at Pinehurst for the second time. In July 2017, it was for the Girls’ North & South Junior Championship. On Wednesday, it was a Round of 32 match in the 117th Women’s North & South Amateur.
“It was hard to believe we were doing this again,” Seumanutafa said.
Two years ago, Seumanutafa, now a rising star at Ohio State, and Sansom, like Seumanutafa a winner in college this year, played together in both their second and final rounds in the 2017 Junior North & South. They were the class of the tournament, finishing the championship a staggering 13 shots ahead of the field – and tied with each other. In the final round, they both made birdie on the 18th hole of Pinehurst No. 6 to share the lead. Both players shot 67 the final day, with Seumanutafa shooting 31 on her last nine and Sansom closing in 30.
Eventually, Seumanutafa got the upper hand in a playoff, and on No. 2 on Wednesday 742 days later, she prevailed again, winning holes 12, 13 and 14 to take a 3&2 victory.
“I feel like this is a very grown-up field,” Seumanutafa said of the Women’s North & South. “It’s a very good field, and the competition is broader and better than the Junior. And, on No. 2, it’s exhausting, both mentally and physically.”
Seumanutafa is vying to become the fourth player to win both the Junior and the Women’s North & South (Donna Andrews, Junior in 1984, Women’s in 1988; Beth Bauer, Junior in 1996, Women’s in 1998 and 1999; May Wood, Junior in 2001, Women’s in 2002).
It was a day of mostly contested matches with few runaways A few highlights:
- Medalist and top seed Allisen Corpuz held off the 32nd-seeded Jessica Spicer, 1-up.
- 2015 Women’s North & South Amateur Runner-Up Beth Wu led 28th-seeded Mycheal O’Berry 3-up after 15 holes, only to see O’Berry rally with three straight wins to extend the match. Wu, the No. 5 seed, finally prevailed in 19 holes. Wu will play Ruffels in a matchup of former North & South Runners-up in the Round of 16 on Thursday.
- Third-seeded Jennifer Chang, a four-time state prep champion in North Carolina who recently won her NCAA Regional at Southern Cal, outlasted No. 30 seed Nicole Lu in 21 holes.
- Second-seeded Amanda Doherty, of Florida State, was the highest seed to fall in the Round of 32, losing 4&3 to Megan McLean, of Penn State.
- Amelia Garvey, who led after the first round and recently finished as the runner-up at the Women’s Amateur Championship at Royal Country Down, fell 3&2 to Tze-Han Lin.
After three days, the field is down to 16 players. The Round of 16 and quarterfinal matches will be played on Thursday, with the semifinal and championship matches to be played on Friday. Spectators are welcome and there is no charge for admission.
Women’s North & South champions are among the legends of the game and include Babe Zaharias, Louise Suggs, Peggy Kirk Bell, Hollis Stacey as well as Brandie Burton, Brittany Lang, Morgan Pressel and Yani Tseng.
As much as the North & South is a championship with a great past, it also continues to foster a great legacy. Eleven of the last 16 Amateur champions have joined the LPGA Tour, four of whom have won major championships – Pressel, Tseng and Lang, who won the 2016 U.S. Women’s Open. 2011 Women’s North & South Champion Danielle Kang won her first major championship in 2017 at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship.
The Women’s North & South has drawn the top amateur women from around the country and is the longest consecutively running women’s amateur championship in the country. Its first championship was played in 1903.
117th WOMEN’S NORTH & SOUTH AMATEUR
Round of 32
Wednesday, July 17
Pinehurst No. 2
Round of 32
Thursday, July 18
No. 1 Allisen Corpuz, Waipahu, HI d. No. 32 Jessica Spicer, Bahama, NC, 1up
No. 16 Brooke Riley, Frisco, TX d. No. 17 Katherine Smith, Detroit Lakes, MN, 1up
No. 8 Aneka Seumanutafa, Emmitsburg, MD ds. No. 25 Brooke Sansom, Pike Road, AL, 3&2
No. 24 Emilia Migliaccio, Cary, NC d. No. 9 Lei Ye, Bradenton, 3&2
No. 4 Dylan Kim, Sachse, TX d. No. 29 Malia Nam, Kailua, HI,2&1
No. 13 Addie Baggarly, Gainesville, FL d. Brigitte Thibault, Canada, 3&2
No. 5 Beth Wu, Diamond Bar, CA d. No. 28 Mychael O’Berry, Hoover, AL, 719 Holes
No. 21 Gabi Ruffels, Australia d. No. 12 Nicole Adam, Pinehurst, NC, 2&1
No. 31 Megan McLean, Lebanon, NJ d. No. 2 Amanda Doherty, Brookhaven, GA , 4&3
No. 18 Doey Choi, Australia d. No. 15 Kennedy Swann, Austin, TX, 4&3
No. 26 Kelly Sim, Edgewater, NJ d. No. 7 Becky Kay, Australia, 1up
No. 23 Tze-Han Lin, Eugene OR d. No. 10 Amelia Garvey, New Zealand, 3&2
No. 3 Jennifer Chang, Cary, NC d. No. 30 Pin-Wen Lu, Taiwan, 21 Holes
No. 19 Maggie Ashmore, Kingston, GA d. No. 14 Stephanie Bunque, Australia, 1up.
No. 6 Christine Wang, Houston, TX d. No. 27 Anna Morgan, Spartanburg, SC, 2&1
No. 11 Gurleen Kaur, Houston, TX d. Gin Kim, Chapel Hill, NC, 19 Holes
Round of 16
Thursday, July 18
No. 1 Allisen Corpuz, Waipahu, HI vs. No. 16 Brooke Riley, Frisco, TX, 7 a.m.
No. 8 Aneka Seumanutafa, Emmitsburg, MD vs. No. 24 Emilia Migliaccio, Cary, NC, 7:08 a.m.
No. 4 Dylan Kim, Sachse, TX vs. No. 13 Addie Baggarly, Gainesville, FL, 7:16 a.m.
No. 5 Beth Wu, Diamond Bar, CA vs. No. 21 Gabi Ruffels, Australia, 7:24 a.m.
No. 31 Megan McLean, Lebanon, NJ vs. No. 18 Doey Choi, Australia, 7:32 a.m.
No. 26 Kelly Sim, Edgewater, NJ vs. No. 23 Tze-Han Lin, Eugene OR, 7:40 a.m.
No. 3 Jennifer Chang, Cary, NC vs. No. 19 Maggie Ashmore, Kingston, GA, 7:48 a.m.
No. 6 Christine Wang, Houston, TX vs. No. 11 Gurleen Kaur, Houston, TX, 7:56 a.m.
Thursday, July 18
Friday, July 19
Friday, July 19
Our most popular year-round golf package includes an extra round of golf.
- Resort accommodations for two nights
- Three rounds of golf
- Overflowing breakfast buffet and dinner daily