USC standout Gabriela Ruffels opts to turn professional

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One of the top Division I women’s golf teams in the country is losing one of the top players in the country.

USC senior Gabriela Ruffels, the 2019 U.S. Women’s Amateur champion and runner-up in the same championship last year, announced Wednesday that she plans to forgo the remainder of her college eligibility and turn professional. The news comes a day after the Augusta National Women’s Amateur field was released with Ruffels one of just two top-30 amateurs not among the commits.

Ruffels said she plans to make her pro debut later this month at the Gainbridge LPGA, to be held Feb. 25-28 at Lake Nona Golf and Country Club in Orlando, Florida, where Ruffels was born.

“Super excited to announce that I have decided to turn professional and will be joining the @nikegolf family,” Ruffels wrote on Instagram. “Just want to give a huge thanks to the @uscwomensgolf team, my coaches and my teammates for making the past 3 years in college the best of my life. It’s been an honor to play for such an amazing school and team and I am forever grateful to call myself a Trojan.

“To everyone that has supported me so far, thank you. Can’t wait to see what this next chapter has in store.”

Ruffels didn’t travel with the Trojans, considered one of the favorites to win the NCAA Championship this May, for their spring opener this week in San Diego, instead remaining at her parents’ home in Palm Springs. USC, led by individual champion and fifth-year senior Allisen Corpuz, won the event by 24 shots over crosstown rival UCLA and TCU.

“She has the full support of our team and our athletic department,” USC head coach Justin Silverstein told GolfChannel.com.

A second-team All-American as a junior, Ruffels won twice and amassed eight top-10s in her USC career. She was even better in amateur competition, birdieing three of her last four holes to defeat Albane Valenzuela in the final of the 2019 U.S. Women’s Amateur. That same summer Ruffels won the North and South Women’s Amateur. Last year she finished runner-up to Rose Zhang in her Women’s Am title defense. She was a career-best sixth in the World Amateur Golf Ranking at the time of her decision.

Ruffels fared well in her recent professional starts. She played three majors last year, missing the cut at the Women’s Open before tying for 15th at the ANA Inspiration and sharing 13th at the U.S. Women’s Open. She also placed fifth at the Symetra Tour Championship last November.

A native Australian, Ruffels, 20, has an older brother, Ryan, who plays on the Korn Ferry Tour. Her parents, Ray and Anna-Maria, were professional tennis players with her mom winning a national championship at USC. Gabi also played tennis growing up, becoming Australia’s top-ranked junior by age 12, before deciding to focus on golf a couple of years later.

The cabinet is not left bare by any means at USC, which still has three players ranked No. 31 or better in the WAGR in Corpuz, Amelia Garvey and Alyaa Abdulghany. The Trojans also welcomed two top freshmen this spring in Brianna Navarrosa and Christine Wang, added Pepperdine transfer Alexa Melton and still have junior Malia Nam, who was a past Pac-12 Freshman of the Year.