The all-Stanford final that seemed more likely than not in the U.S. Women’s Amateur failed to materialize on Saturday, when an Australian tennis prodigy turned golfer upset Andrea Lee, the second-ranked amateur in the world.
Gabriela Ruffels, who gave up tennis for golf less than five years ago, defeaated Lee, 2 up, at Old Waverly Golf Club in West Point, Miss.
Her opponent in the 36-hole final on Sunday will be Albane Valenzuela, a Stanford senior from Switzerland, who has reached the final for the second time in three years with her 19th-hole victory over 15-year-old Megha Ganne.
Lee, also a senior at Stanford, led after three holes, but trailed after six holes and throughout the rest of the match. Ruffels, a junior at the University of Southern California, closed out the match with a conceded par at the 18th hole.
“We both got off to a shaky start,” Ruffels said. “I mean this is the semifinals of the U.S. Amateur. I think there are going to be a little nerves. But I’m glad I just kind of stuck with it, kind of kept my head down, hit some fairways, hit some greens and made some putts.”
Ruffels, 19, is the daughter of two tennis professionals. Father Ray reached the singles semifinals of the Australian Open on three occasions, while her mother Anna-Maria Fernandez won a singles national championship at USC. Her older brother Ryan Ruffels is playing professional golf on the PGA Latinoamérica Tour.
Valenzuela, meanwhile, was unable to shake her stubborn opponent, a high school sophomore and the 543rd-ranked amateur in the world. Ganne’s 18th-hole birdie sent the match to a 19th hole, the par-5 10th at Old Waverly. Each hit strong third shots, and Valenzuela, putting first, holed a 10-footer for birdie and Ganne missed her eight-footer to extend the match.
“It was very competitive, but at the same time a very fun match,” Valenzuela said. “It was played in the spirit of the game. Megha made me work hard on the course. She’s definitely such a talented player for a 15-year old. I think she has an amazing career ahead of her.”
Valenzuela, 21, will have an experience advantage in the final. Two years ago, she lost to Sophia Schubert in the amateur final at San Diego Country Club. She also represented Switzerland in the 2018 Olympics, won the Pacific 12 Championship and has played in several LPGA major championships. She was 24th in the U.S. Women’s Open in 2018.
Ruffels, who has her USC coach Jason Silverstein caddieing for her, won the Windy City Collegiate Championship and defeated Lee, 2 and 1, in the team final of the East Lake Cup to give the Trojans the victory over Stanford. She also finished third in the Pacific 12 Championship.