20 Mar 2023 | Professional golf |
Aussies on Tour: Ruffels takes big step towards LPGA Tour
by Australian Golf Media
By Tony Webeck
Twenty-two-year-old Victorian Gabriela Ruffels has taken a major step towards playing her way onto the LPGA Tour with a two-stroke win at the Epson Tour’s Carlisle Arizona Women’s Classic. Her second win as a professional after claiming the Arizona Women’s Open on the Cactus Tour in 2021, Ruffels has rocketed to No.1 on the Epson Tour moneylist as she seeks to atone for the heartbreak of last season. Ruffels entered the final event of the 2022 Epson Tour season with the chance to finish inside the top 10 and earn promotion to the LPGA Tour in 2023. She ultimately finished 15th and then missed the cut-off to enter the LPGA Q-Series where she could also have obtained her card. “It feels so good [to win]. I’ve wanted this all week, especially after the first round when I kind of got into the tournament,” said Ruffels. “I just had to stay patient all day, and I can finally relax knowing that I won. It’s a really cool feeling. “I came in 15th on the Epson Tour last year and still felt like I had a lot to improve on.” A return home to Melbourne for the Women’s Australian Open in December was followed by Ladies European Tour Qualifying School, where she secured playing rights for the 2023 season. A fourth-place finish at the season-opening Magical Kenya Ladies Open was close to the perfect start but it is almost certain that she will now dedicate herself to the Epson Tour and the US for the remainder of the year. Already boasting four top-25 finishes in major championships, the 2019 US Women’s Amateur champion is determined to advance to the premier women’s tour in world golf as soon as she possibly can. “I feel like this year, if I can prove myself out here, then hopefully next year, if I get onto the LPGA Tour, I’ll be super ready," said Ruffels. "Definitely having this win, any win but especially this one, is going to boost my confidence for the rest of the year.” Two strokes in front entering the final round, Ruffels’ bogey-free four-under 68 ensured her status at the top of the leaderboard was never in question. The lead was as large as five strokes early in the back nine and was four right up until American Kathleen Scavo eagled the final hole to narrow the final margin to two. Ruffels made a sole bogey across the 72 holes and she was delighted by her consistency which was motivated by words of encouragement from her mother, former tennis professional Anna-Maria Fernandez, who has been caddying for her for the past year. “I feel like that’s probably one of my most proud things,” said Ruffels. “I made a whole lot of birdies. My mom told me to stay patient, and that’s what I needed to do out here. Turns out it worked out well.” The Carlisle event is one of two Epson tournaments in 2023 with a total purse of $US335,000, the most in tour history, Ruffels claiming the lion’s share with a winner’s haul of $US50,250. On hand to douse Ruffels in a shower of water after the final putt, it was a strong week too for Grace Kim. Sharpening her game in the lead-up to her debut season on the LPGA Tour, Kim closed with a round of one-under 71 to earn a share of 10th, Robyn Choi was four strokes further back in a tie for 29th. TPS Victoria winner Min A Yoon finished five strokes back of Ruffels in a tie for third. A round of one-under 70 was enough for Cameron Percy to move inside the top 20 at the PGA TOUR’s Valspar Championship in Florida while Jack Thompson’s tie for 24th was the best of the Aussies at the DGC Open on the Asian Tour. It was another outstanding week, too, for Kiwi golfers. Lydia Ko solidified her standing as the No.1 player in the women’s game with a third-place finish at the Aramco Team Series Singapore on the Ladies European Tour as Danny Lee clinched his first LIV Golf event in just his second start, holing a putt from off the green at the third playoff hole to win the LIV Golf Tucson event. A final round of 69 saw Matt Jones finish as the best of the Aussies, Round 1 leader Marc Leishman falling to a tie for 13th with a six-over 77. Results Epson Tour Carlisle Arizona Women’s Classic Longbow Golf Club, Mesa, Arizona 1 Gabriela Ruffels 68-67-67-68—270 $US50,250 T10 Grace Kim 68-73-69-71—281 T22 Amelia Garvey (NZ) 73-67-70-74—284 T29 Robyn Choi 74-69-69-73—285 T48 Hira Naveed 70-72-73-73—288 MC Sarah Jane Smith 78-71—149 PGA TOUR Valspar Championship Innisbrook Resort (Copperhead Cse), Palm Harbor, Florida 1 Taylor Moore 71-67-69-67—274 $1.458m T16 Cameron Percy 72-71-69-70—282 $131,625 T65 Harrison Endycott 72-71-73-75—291 $17,172 Asian Tour The DGC Open Delhi Golf Club, India 1 Miguel Tabuena 68-71-72-65—276 $US135,000 T24 Jack Thompson 69-73-74-71—287 $6,825 T52 Kevin Yuan 70-72-74-76—292 $2,950 T59 Douglas Klein 70-72-76-77—295 $2,362.50 MC Terry Pilkadaris 75-72—147 MC Ben Campbell (NZ) 72-75—147 MC Nick Voke (NZ) 76-74—150 MC Marcus Fraser 76-77—153 MC Denzel Ieremia (NZ) 76-78—154 DQ Scott Hend 73 Ladies European Tour Aramco Team Series Singapore Laguna National Golf Resort Club, Singapore 1 Pauline Roussin 68-69-64—201 €70,713.75 3 Lydia Ko (NZ) 72-68-66—206 €28,285.50 T16 Momoka Kobori (NZ) 75-69-70—214 €7,896.37 T37 Whitney Hillier 75-71-72—218 €3,512.12 T49 Kirsten Rudgeley 76-72-74—222 €2,156.77 PGA TOUR Champions Hoag Classic Newport Beach CC, Newport Beach, California 1 Ernie Els 70-65-65—200 $US300,000 T15 Rod Pampling 67-68-70—205 $27,760 T25 Stuart Appleby 69-67-70—206 $17,833 T37 Robert Allenby 70-68-70—208 $9,600 T37 Richard Green 69-68-71—208 $9,600 T37 Mark Hensby 71-69-68—208 $9,600 T47 David McKenzie 72-69-68—209 $6,600 T55 John Senden 69-72-70—211 $4,100 PGA TOUR Latinoamerica Termas de Rio Hondo Invitational Rio Hondo Golf Club, Rio Hondo, Argentina 1 Jake Mccrory 66-66-67-70—269 $US31,500 T23 Harry Hillier (NZ) 68-68-71-70—277 MC Charlie Hillier (NZ) 73-70—143 LIV Golf LIV Golf Tucson The Gallery Golf Club, Marana, Arizona 1 Danny Lee (NZ) 68-67-69—204 $US4m Won on the third hole of sudden death playoff T6 Matt Jones 70-67-69—206 $670,000 T13 Marc Leishman 65-66-77—208 $270,400 T24 Cameron Smith 71-70-70—211 $163,000 47 Jed Morgan 73-74-75—222 $122,000
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