U.S. Women’s Am Champ Turns Down Augusta Invite

For most golfers, an invitation to play Augusta National Golf Club would be enough to give up having a putter in their bag for the rest of their playing days. Of course, that’s an easy trade-off to make when you’re not likely to ever have to do it. 

For Gabi Ruffels, a junior at the University of Southern California, an invitation to play the home of the Masters did come, and she declined.

The reigning U.S. Women’s Amateur Champion and the 19th-ranked amateur in the world, Ruffels received an invite to play in the second edition of the Augusta National Women’s Amateur the week before the Masters in April, but she’s passing up the opportunity to play in another big-time event: the first major championship of the LPGA season, the ANA Inspiration.

“It was a really tough decision, but I think we all decided ANA would be the best,” Ruffels, an Aussie, told The Sydney Morning Herald. “I’m only getting the ANA start because I won the US Women’s Amateur and it’s a rare opportunity; they don’t give out exemptions to anyone at majors.”

For Ruffels, the decision was a strategic one because she plans to be able to earn an invite back to Augusta next year.

“I know if I keep playing well and my ranking is good, I can still play Augusta,” she said. “I want to stay an amateur for two more years and get my college degree.”

With the ANWA running concurrently to the ANA, four amateurs opted for the major over the upstart competition last year.

This year, ANWA invitations began arriving earlier this month with seven of the top-10 amateurs in the world already having committed to playing. The other three top-10 players haven’t announced their plans yet. 

“It is with great excitement that we have begun the process of assembling the field for the 2020 Augusta National Women’s Amateur,” said Fred Ridley, chairman of Augusta National Golf Club and the Masters Tournament. “An invitation to this championship represents another impressive achievement for the top players in the women’s amateur game. We look forward to welcoming the field to Augusta in April and remain steadfast in our belief that this event – highlighted by these talented players – will impact and grow interest in the sport in a meaningful way.”

In total, 65 players have committed to the ANWA. The full field will consist of 72 players. The competition, which runs from April 1-4, will have its first 36 holes contested at Champions Retreat Golf Club on April 1 and 2 with the top-30 advancing to the final round at Augusta National Golf Club on April 4. 

On April 3, all competitors, regardless of score, will get to play a practice round at Augusta National.