Gabriela Ruffels was 6 years old when Karrie Webb jumped into Michael Paterson’s arms after holing out for eagle from 116 yards on the 18th hole to get into a playoff against Lorena Ochoa and ultimately win the 2006 ANA Inspiration.
Ruffels, who didn’t start playing golf seriously until age 15, has learned all about that memorable finish this week at Mission Hills with Paterson on the bag.
“I’m just trying to learn as much as I can from him,” said Ruffels, a USC senior who has proven to be a terrific student.
A second-round 68 moved Ruffels into a share of seventh at 5-under 139 in her ANA debut, six shots behind leader Nelly Korda. There are six amateurs in the field this week and Rose Zhang, the junior player who beat Ruffels in the U.S. Women’s Amateur final last month, is tied for 17th at 4 under.
LEADERBOARD: ANA Inspiration
Golf Australia’s Stacey Peters connected Ruffels to Paterson, who typically works for So Yeon Ryu, the 2017 ANA champ who isn’t in the field. Ruffels played a practice round alongside Australia’s Hannah Green, the 2019 KPMG champion, and Su Oh.
Like the Kordas, both of Ruffels’ parents, Ray Ruffels and Anna-Maria Fernandez, were professional tennis players. While Sebastian Korda recently competed in the U.S. Open tennis tournament, Ruffels’ brother Ryan plays on the Korn Ferry Tour.
“My dad knows Petr (Korda) through tennis,” said Ruffels. “It’s always fun for them to catch up when we’re playing the same tournament. My brother is pretty good friends with Nelly.”
Ruffels, still being fairly new to golf, took notes on where the Kordas dropped balls during practice and generally went about their business more professionally.
The 2019 U.S. Women’s Amateur champ said the pressure of defending her title helped prepare her for being in the top 10 of a major championship, cameras and all.
She also has the unusual added advantage of sleeping in her own bed at a major. Ruffels lives 20 minutes away in Indian Wells, California, and frequently plays in 100-plus temperatures.
“It’s so cool to be able to stay at home and come back and see my dog,” said Ruffels, who has an Australian Shepherd named Rio.
Stanford’s Lei Ye carded a third-round 69 to easily make the weekend at 1 under. Wake Forest’s Emilia Migliaccio (1 over) and Olivia Mehaffey (4 over) of Arizona State brought the total to five amateurs making the cut, tying the record set in 2013.