The 120th U.S. Women’s Amateur is the first tournament that will crown a national champion since the outbreak initially placed the sports world on an indefinite hiatus. All players and their caddies must test negative to compete and each day thereafter receive a temperature check before being permitted onto the course.
“The USGA actually has done an incredible job with all the testing and safety precautions,” said Ruffels, a junior at Southern Cal who spent part of her youth in Australia. “They’re very strict about all of us wearing masks, even when you’re just outside.
“Even walking to the different facilities, you have to wear a mask. It feels super safe around there, which is nice. I mean obviously it’s all very different. Just seeing everyone in masks, it’s hard to recognize some people. When I go past them, I’m like, ‘Wait, who are you?’”
Ruffels ascended to prominence at last year’s event at Old Waverly in West Point, Miss., defeating Albane Valenzuela, 1-up, in the championship match. She became the first Australian to win the U.S. Women’s Amateur and since has climbed to No. 9 in the world.
The last repeat winner of the U.S. Women’s Amateur was Danielle Kang in 2010 and ’11.
Ruffels, 20, also made a historic start at the Jacksonville (Fla.) Amateur late last month as the first woman to play in the tournament in its 59 years. Ruffels missed the cut by four strokes in a rare opportunity to play competitively since the virus outbreak.
“I think it was a big deal for them to have me come over,” Ruffels said. “I mean it was super special for me too. I just wanted to play a tournament to kind of get in the competitive mode leading up to this week. I think it was good to try to handle the pressure and expectations that I’d probably have this week too.”
The daughter of former professional tennis players Ray Ruffels and Anna-Maria Fernandez is no stranger to the spotlight. When she was 12, Ruffels rose to the No. 1 ranking in the Australian junior tennis circuit before giving up the sport, citing burnout.
At 14, she took up golf at the suggestion of her parents, and by 2016 Ruffels finished ninth at the Australian Women’s Amateur.
Migliaccio, meantime, also is a seasoned international player, having won two gold medals at the Pan American Games in Lima, Peru. She claimed the individual title by four shots and helped the United States win the men’s and women’s combined championship.
The senior at top-ranked Wake Forest, runner-up to Duke at last season’s Division I women’s golf championship, became the first American, regardless of gender, to win a gold medal in golf at either the Pan American Games or the Olympics since the sport was reintroduced in 2015.
Like all the competitors at the U.S. Women’s Amateur, which begins with two rounds of stroke play Monday and Tuesday before the field is trimmed to 64 for match play culminating in Sunday’s final, Magliaccio has had to get creative to keep her game in shape during the pandemic.
“In practice every day, you always want to try to simulate the same amount of pressure — you can never really do that, but you always want to work toward that,” Magliaccio said. “Just things like that to get your adrenaline back in the mode that it is in competition. That’s how I’ve been trying to get back into that mind-set.”
Playing in her first U.S. Women’s Amateur, Migliaccio has won five individual titles with the Demon Deacons and qualified for the 2018 U.S. Women’s Open at Shoal Creek. She’s scheduled to play in this year’s U.S. Women’s Open in December at Cypress Creek in Houston.
Migliaccio also had been invited to participate in the second Augusta Women’s Amateur, with the final round played at hallowed Augusta National, site of the Masters, before the outbreak led to the cancellation of the tournament.
Migliaccio, 21, is eligible for the 2021 Augusta Women’s Amateur, provided the former ACC freshman of the year retains her amateur standing.
The outbreak also kept the reigning ACC individual champion from competing in several international events.
“It definitely was tough in the beginning when things were canceled because I was planning on going to Europe, and I had tournaments in Wales and Ireland,” she said. “I had some pretty cool opportunities that were canceled, and so it was pretty hard to process. It all came as kind of a shock, but everyone was in the same boat.”