BY ALEX PODLOGAR
At times, it felt like Doey Choi was playing two people in the championship match of the 117th Women’s North & South Amateur on Pinehurst No. 2 on Friday.
Before every shot – the drives, the approach shots, a
chip – and before each and every putt that needed the requisite attention, Gabi
Ruffels and her caddie, local Pinehurst caddie Brant Hunt, conferred. They
discussed lines, angles, breaks and reads. He pointed to specific spots on
Donald Ross’ famed turtleback greens. Ruffels would nod and address the ball.
“I trusted Brant every single time,” said Ruffels, the runner-up in this historic championship a year ago. “He was always right. He knows this course inside and out, and I put all of my trust in him.”
And it won Ruffels the North & South Championship against her fellow Australian.
Gabi Ruffels confers with her caddie, Pinehurst local caddie Brant Hunt, during the championship match of the 117th Women’s North & South Amateur on Friday. (Photo by John Patota)
In the middle of the fairway on the 14th hole, the match tied, Ruffels had her typical conversation with Hunt. At the end, he had one last piece of advice.
“He said, ‘Just hit the middle of the green. That’s all I want here. Don’t go at it,’” Ruffels said.
“I was like, ‘Naahhhhh.’”
Ruffels arched a beautiful high fade into the air, the ball glistening against a stormy sky backdrop. It hit the front of the green and took one little bounce – just enough to hold the front of the green. Ruffels waited…and waited…and waited, holding her follow-through, as if her stillness might do the same for the ball.
It did, leaving her 9 feet for birdie. After Choi lagged a brilliant putt down the hill from 40 feet away, Ruffels went through the motions with Hunt again – this time listening on the read – and buried the putt. She took a 1-up lead to 15, and never gave it up.
Doey Choi was showing off her Aussie pride during the championship match. (Photo by John Patota)
“This is everything,” said Ruffels, who stars at Southern Cal. “Coming from last year when I was so close as the runner-up, this was my goal. And to do it in match play where anything can happen…I’m just so happy.”
Ruffels, who beat the field’s top-ranked player in Wake Forest’s Emilia Migliaccio in the morning semifinal, trailed Choi 2-down before two weather delays halted the match. When play resumed, Ruffels won three straight holes, first squaring the match by making a 50-foot birdie putt on the 8th before a par on 9 gave her a 1-up lead heading to the back nine.
Women’s North & South Amateur Runner-up Doey Choi, of Australia. (Photo by John Patota)
Choi tied the match again with a lovely birdie on 11. For the week, Choi was 10-under on the back nine of No. 2.
It was spirited match throughout between the two Aussies, who were followed in a sizable gallery by several fellow Aussies who were in the field earlier in the week. They cheered heartily for both players.
“I think I played my first-ever golf tournament with Doey,” said Ruffels, who grew up as a top-ranked junior tennis player. “She’s a great friend. And she’s been a great friend for my whole golf life.”
Choi gave it her best shot, but when her long putt from the front of 18 didn’t fall, she conceded the match to her friend Ruffels, who had about 15 feet for birdie after another in a series of stunning approach shots to close the match.
“It was such a good fight for both of us,” Choi said. “I’m really happy for Gabi.
“It was really, really nice (playing in front of ourfriends following us). It felt like I was back at home, which made it reallycomfortable. Playing against a friend is really hard, but I don’t think I could’velost to better person or a better player.”
Women’s North & South champions are among the legendsof the game and include Babe Zaharias, Louise Suggs, Peggy Kirk Bell, HollisStacey as well as Brandie Burton, Brittany Lang, Morgan Pressel and Yani Tseng.
As much as the North & South is a championship with agreat past, it also continues to foster a great legacy. Eleven of the last 16Amateur champions have joined the LPGA Tour, four of whom have won majorchampionships – Pressel, Tseng and Lang, who won the 2016 U.S. Women’s Open.2011 Women’s North & South Champion Danielle Kang won her first majorchampionship in 2017 at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship.
The Women’s North & South has drawn the top amateurwomen from around the country and is the longest consecutively running women’samateur championship in the country. Its first championship was played in 1903.
117 thWOMEN’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 JessicaSpicer, Bahama, NC, 1up
No. 16 Brooke Riley, Frisco, TX d. No. 17 KatherineSmith, Detroit Lakes, MN, 1up
No. 8 Aneka Seumanutafa, Emmitsburg, MD ds. No. 25 BrookeSansom, 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. BrigitteThibault, Canada, 3&2
No. 5 Beth Wu, Diamond Bar, CA d. No. 28 Mychael O’Berry,Hoover, AL, 19 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 StephanieBunque, 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 d. No. 16 Brooke Riley,Frisco, TX, 2&1
No. 24 Emilia Migliaccio, Cary, NC d. No. 8 AnekaSeumanutafa, Emmitsburg, MD, 8&6
No. 4 Dylan Kim, Sachse, TX d. No. 13 Addie Baggarly, 3&2
No. 21 Gabi Ruffels, Australia d. No. 5 Beth Wu, DiamondBar, CA, 2&1
No. 18 Doey Choi, Australia d. No. 31 Megan McLean,Lebanon, 3&2
No. 26 Kelly Sim, Edgewater, NJ d. No. 23 Tze-Han Lin,Eugene OR, 5&4
No. 3 Jennifer Chang, Cary, NC d. No. 19 Maggie Ashmore,Kingston, GA, 3&2
No. 6 Christine Wang, Houston, TX d. No. 11 Gurleen Kaur,Houston, TX, 6&4
Thursday, July 18
No. 24 Emilia Migliaccio, Cary, NC d. No. 1 AllisenCorpuz, Waipahu, HI, 1-up
No. 21 Gabi Ruffels, Australia d. No. 4 Dylan Kim,Sachse, TX, 2&1
No. 18 Doey Choi, Australia d. No. 26 Kelly Sim,Edgewater, NJ, 3&1
No. 6 Christine Wang, Houston, TX d. No. 3 JenniferChang, Cary, NC, 3&1
Friday, July 19
No. 21 Gabi Ruffels, Australia d. No. 24 EmiliaMigliaccio, Cary, NC, 1-up
No. 18 Doey Choi, Australia d. No. 6 Christine Wang,Houston, TX , 3&2
Friday, July 19
No. 21 Gabi Ruffels, Australia d. No. 18 Doey Choi,Australia, 2-up