Sponsor invite Gabriela Ruffels is excited to be back in Vancouver as the LPGA Tour returns to British Columbia for the CPKC Women's Open at the historic Shaughnessy Golf and Country Club. It’s her fourth start on the LPGA Tour of the 2023 season and first since the Dana Open in July where she was also a sponsor invite.
"It's great. I was super excited to get the invite. I know this is one of the bigger events on the LPGA schedule, so I was super excited when I found out that I was going to come here," said Ruffels, who is making her CPKC Women’s Open debut. "I was here a couple (of) months ago for my U.S. Women's Open qualifier, which I got through. I qualified, so I have good memories from Vancouver, and it's nice to be back."
It's been a fun couple of weeks for Ruffels on the Epson Tour. The 23-year-old became the first player to secure her spot on the biggest stage in women's golf through the Epson Tour's Race for the Card after picking up her third victory of the season at the Four Winds Invitational. The Australian currently sits No. 1 on the Epson Tour's official money list with $156,283 and has officially clinched LPGA Tour Membership for the 2024 season.
In her rookie year on the Epson Tour in 2022, the 2019 U.S. Women’s Amateur champion recorded five top-10 finishes, ending the season five spots shy of an LPGA Tour card at No. 15 in the Race for the Card. After missing the deadline to register for last year’s LPGA Q-Series, Ruffels returned to the Epson Tour in 2023, determined to prove herself worthy of a spot on the LPGA Tour.
"I think that the Epson Tour doesn't get enough recognition for how good it is. The level of players out there they're great. And from all over the world. It's really high competition, and you have to play well to win," she said. "I feel like I improved in that environment, in that competitive environment, and having those experiences of learning how to win as well, which I wasn't really exposed to my first couple of years as a pro has really benefited me, and I know will help me next year."
To say Ruffels has had a fabulous season on the Epson Tour would be an understatement. In her sophomore campaign, she made her presence known early, winning the second event of the year at the Carlisle Arizona Women's Championship. Four events later, she tied the all-time 54-hole Epson Tour scoring record of 19-under to take home the title at the Garden City Charity Classic at Buffalo Dunes. Then that third win that came just a few weeks ago at the Four Winds Invitational was the icing on the cake of an already impressive year.
"People have been asking me, what have you done? I think it's just a culmination of the past couple of years and working super hard and having that confidence of good results. I feel like I've just carried that momentum with me this whole year," said the soon-to-be Epson Tour graduate. "I haven't changed much or done much different. I guess it's just all my hard work coming to fruition and then a bit of confidence and kind of rolling with momentum."
Having already secured her LPGA Tour card for 2024, she is heading into the week with a little less pressure and fewer expectations. The CPKC Women's Open marks Ruffels’ 20th career start on the LPGA Tour since 2019. She has made the cut in her three previous starts this season, two of which were major championships, the KPMG Women's PGA Championship, where she finished tied for 24th, and the U.S. Women's Open, where she finished in a tie for 33rd.
"I'm not one to set goals. I kind of just know what I can control and just kind of try and do that each week,” Ruffels said. “But it is a really, really strong field, and it almost has kind of a major feel out here. Golf Canada and Canada, in general, have really got around this event. It's great to see that.
"The hospitality this week has been amazing. I can see they have the best players out here this week. It's already been a great tournament, and it's only Wednesday. I'm excited to see how my game stacks up against the best in the world."
With her goal of playing on the LPGA Tour now a reality, her sights are set on making her name known, and the young Australian won't forget those who have supported her along the way and the growth of Aussie golf over the last couple of years. Karrie Webb, in particular, has continued to grow the game and has been a tremendous role model for all Australian female golfers across the world. Ruffels is grateful for Webb's support, and it has allowed her to build a camaraderie with other Aussies on Tour, relationships that will be incredibly beneficial during her rookie campaign next season.
"It was great. I feel like I need to rely on (my fellow Australians) a bit more, ask them a few more questions, and pick their brain, especially non-golf stuff with travel. I was having a few rental car issues this week. They gave me a few hints," she said on having dinner with some of the Aussies recently. "Definitely need to pick their brain a bit more about life on the road. It's great to have that support, and they're some of the nicest girls out here. It's awesome to have a group of girls you know you can go to."