Australian Gabriela Ruffels secures a third Epson Tour title at the Four Winds Invitational
Report from the Epson Tour
Gabriela Ruffels sealed a victory at the Four Winds Invitational this afternoon for her third win of the season. The Aussie found the bottom of the cup for par on 18 at South Bend Country Club to cap a final round three-under par 69 and take the lead of 12-under-par overall, a three-shot victory over Katherine Smith and Becca Huffer.
"It was kind of a weird round today," explained Ruffels. "I started off two ahead, and then we got called off due to weather on the first green. I had like a four-foot birdie putt that I had to sit and think about. Then I made my first bogey of the week at number two, so I got a little unsettled there. Other than that, I played pretty steady golf coming in, so I was pretty happy."
As for Ruffels' third time in the winner's circle, the Battlefield Promotion to the LPGA Tour is no longer in play. The change was part of the overall restructuring with the installment of Q-Series in 2018. Although a three-time champion on the "Road to the LPGA" previously got a position on the LPGA's priority list for the remainder of the LPGA season, she did not receive official LPGA Tour membership.
Regardless, Ruffels plans to compete in most of the final events on the Epson Tour calendar and fully prepare for what looks like her rookie season on the LPGA in 2024. For now, three wins in 12 starts even had the Epson Tour sophomore a bit speechless and looking forward to remaining tournaments in 2023.
"I am not sure what my plan is yet; I haven't even thought that far ahead," said the Epson Tour sophomore with a smile. "I am going to take a week off next week and go back home to California. Then I have a start at the Canadian (CPKC Women's Open) on the LPGA Tour, so that's what's next right now."
Katherine Smith was the challenger all day for Ruffels. Smith made four birdies in the first 10 holes to put Ruffels on notice. A bogey on 14 dropped Smith off the pace but had a birdie putt on 18 to get within a shot that just slid by the low side of the hole. She would have to settle for par and a final round 69 (-3), her best placing of the season.
"I birdied my first hole, which was good," said Smith. "From there, I put myself in a really good position to be in contention today with my ball striking. Then it was just a matter of how many putts I made out there. I didn't make as many as I would have liked, but it was definitely a solid round in this wind today."
Notre Dame grad Becca Huffer also turned in a card of 70 (-2) to join Smith in the T2 position. Huffer had a slow start to her round, not making her first birdie until the 7th hole. She put together a solid performance on the back, however, going bogey-free and adding two birdies along the way. A birdie at the last was met with a first pump and thunderous applause from the South Bend crowd as Huffer moved one step closer to the Race to the Card top 10.
"Today was a day that I just couldn't get any putts to go in," said Huffer. "It was solid, though, so I was happy with how I played, but Gabi just played really well today. It was super fun to be able to play in front of the Notre Dame fans again and have a good week while doing it."
Rounding out the top of the leaderboard were Laura Wearn and Agathe Laisne, who both finished -8 for the tournament.
View the final leaderboard here.