Migliaccio, Ruffels, Wang and Choi make up elite semifinal matchups
Donald Ross liked to say that sand and golf go together.
And a few grains of sand on Pinehurst No. 2 may have made all the difference for Emilia Migliaccio.
At first, though, it wasn’t a good thing.
Migliaccio, the highest-ranked player in the 117th Women’s North & South field, had just lost her lead to the tournament’s medalist, Allisen Corpuz, in the quarterfinals Thursday of the historic championship. The Southern Cal senior had rallied with an eagle on the par-5 10th and a birdie on the 11th to take a 1-up lead. Then, Corpuz won the 12th hole without even having to finish when it was ruled Migliaccio had moved sand when she tried to brush away pinestraw. The penalty resulted in a lost hole for Migliaccio, and a 2-down deficit with six to play.
“I just thought it was pinestraw,” Migliaccio said. “But when the official said it was sand that moved, I thought, ‘Oh yes, of course. That makes sense.’ I mean, it’s a rule.”
A devastating one, right?
“My mom (her caddie) and I always say, ‘We’re playing the course. We’re playing the course, not the opponent.’ And No. 2 is just so difficult that I think it just got me even more focused on playing the course,” MIgliaccio said. “I just got into a zone and started playing the course a little harder. I think it put me in a better spot.”
That was quickly evident, as Migliaccio curled in a slider 10 feet down the hill on 13 for birdie to get a hole back, and nestled a gorgeous chip that circled the cup to win the par-5 16th, squaring the match.
The players halved the 17th with pars, and both hit solid drives into the fairway on 18. Migliaccio hit her approach to middle of the green, but Corpuz’s approach sailed a little right of her target and rolled off the side of the 18th green. She tried one flop shot, then a second after the ball rolled back to her feet. Migliaccio won the hole and the match a few moments later when Corpuz conceded.
“This felt like a championship match,” Migliaccio said. We just kept going back and forth at each other.”
Migliaccio, who is from Cary, North Carolina, and played high school golf at Athens Drive with fellow North & South semifinalist Jennifer Chang, knows something about championship-level play. The Wake Forest sophomore is ranked 9th in the world, but also helped lead the Demon Deacons to a runner-up finish at the NCAA Championship, where they fell to Duke. Migliaccio was 3-0 in match play in the NCAA. She’s 3-0 so far in the North & South, and two wins away from claiming the coveted Putter Boy trophy.
“It would mean so much to me,” Migliaccio said. “No. 2 is hardest course I’ve ever played in my entire life, and I’ve been fortunate to play a lot of great courses. But this would be so special.”
To do it, though, Migliaccio will have to be at her best, because…
A year after nearly winning the North & South, Southern Cal junior Gabi Ruffels returns to the semifinals after beating Arkansas’ Dylan Kim 2&1 in the quarterfinals on Wednesday.
And Ruffels is doing it by taking a page out of Payne Stewart’s playbook.
Before the 1999 U.S. Open, Stewart famously charted the most difficult areas around Pinehurst No. 2, then went back with his caddie Mike Hicks to make a plan about cautiously avoiding those spots at all costs.
Ruffels is essentially doing the same thing.
“Before every shot, I ask my caddie, ‘Where’s the best spot to miss?’ and I think that’s really helping me get around No. 2 and to be patient,” Ruffels said. “Because, if you find yourself in the wrong places on this course? You’re done.”
Kim played well to start the match, taking a 2-up lead through five holes. But Ruffels won the next four holes to take a lead she would never relinquish. After finishing as the championship’s runner-up to Stephanie Lau a year ago, Ruffels is again one win away from the final match.
Christine Wang is one of the top junior golfers in the country. But her first reason for coming to the North & South?
To see a friend.
By not playing the U.S. Junior Girls Championship, Wang had an open week. And her good friend Savannah Grewal was planning to play in the North & South. With both players about to head off to college – Wang to Southern Cal – they thought it might be good to play more tournament together and hang out one more week this summer.
And now, Wang is just two wins away from winning the North & South after dispatching one of the game’s elite players, future teammate Jennifer Chang, in the quarterfinals 3&1.
“It’s my first time here,” Wang said. “I really just wanted to see my friend play one more time before she goes to college. She was playing the North & South, and told me about it.”
So, you could say, the trip is working out.
“So far,” Wang said.
If you are behind in a match against Australian Doey Choi when you get to the 11th hole of Pinehurst No. 2, forget it.
“There’s just something about those holes,” Choi said. “I love them.”
Choi was 2-down to Northwestern’s Kelly Sim when the quarterfinal match hit the 11th hole, but Choi made birdie at 11, 13 and 14 before two more birdies at 16 and 17 closed out the match. Choi went from 2-down to a 3&1 win in a span of seven holes. She won five of them.
“You know how, for some players, some holes just seem to fit their eye?” Choi tried to explain. “That’s me and that stretch of par-4s. I just look forward to that stretch.”
The quarterfinals featured four players with ties to the Southern California Trojans golf program. Corpuz, Ruffels and Chang all star for the Trojans, and Wang, of Houston, is a recruit headed there.
It was possible for three of the four players to reach the semfinals with Wang and Chang facing off in the quarterfinals. And there’s still a chance of an All-Trojan final with Ruffels and Wang.
There’s also a chance of an All-Aussie final with Ruffels and Choi.
And before Chang’s loss, there was a chance of a North & South final with high school teammates. Migliaccio and Chang were North Carolina’s top two players when they were at Athens Drive High School. Both players are also from nearby Cary, North Carolina.
After four days, the field is down to four players. The semifinal and championship matches will be played on Friday, with semifinal matches beginning at 7 a.m. The champion match will begin at 1:30 p.m. 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 d. No. 16 Brooke Riley, Frisco, TX, 2&1
No. 24 Emilia Migliaccio, Cary, NC d. No. 8 Aneka Seumanutafa, 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, Diamond Bar, 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 Allisen Corpuz, 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 Jennifer Chang, Cary, NC, 3&1
Friday, July 19
No. 21 Gabi Ruffels, Australia vs. No. 24 Emilia Migliaccio, Cary, NC, 7 a.m.
No. 6 Christine Wang, Houston, TX vs. No. 18 Doey Choi, Australia, 7:10 a.m.
Friday, July 19
TBD, 1:30 p.m.
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