Australian Gabi Ruffels has surged to the top of the leaderboard at the Four Winds Invitational as she chases a third Epson Tour win of the season that would guarantee a 2024 LPGA Tour card.
The current No.1 in the Race For The Card standings, Ruffels is almost certainly bound for LPGA Tour promotion but can make certain of it by becoming the 21st player to win three times in a single Epson Tour season, Hannah Green the last Australian to do so in 2017.
Bogey-free through 36 holes of the 54-hole event, Ruffels shot 7-under 65 on Friday to move two clear at the top of the leaderboard.
A member of Golf Australia’s Rookie Squad, it is a position she has held twice this season already and both times came away with victories at the Carlisle Arizona Women’s Golf Classic and the Garden City Charity Classic at Buffalo Dunes.
“The experience of winning at any level is super important,” said Ruffels. “Having done it twice already this year, I feel like that experience can only help, and I can draw on those experiences.
“I just hope I can end up with the same result tomorrow.”
Not only is the 23-year-old looking to pick up her third win of the season, but she is looking to do so in style. Ruffels has played her first 36 holes without making a bogey and will have the opportunity to finish the tournament without a blemish on her scorecard for the whole week.
“I kept my same gameplan of being aggressive, but today my putts were falling,” said Ruffels. “That’s golf, though, and it can happen like that.
“I am definitely happy with how it went today, and I just need to keep doing to same thing tomorrow.”
With a win, Ruffels would be the first player of the 2023 season to secure her LPGA Tour card for 2024. Ruffels has some experience and success playing on the LPGA Tour, receiving exemptions throughout her career, and qualifying for major championships.
In 2023 alone, she’s made the cut in LPGA Tour events, the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, US Women’s Open and the Dana Open, where Ruffels ultimately finished T24, T33 and T23, respectively. A win this week at the Four Winds Invitational would be a well-deserved coronation for the Australian.
“The thought is definitely there,” said Ruffels. “I just need to control what I can control and just keep trying to improve. If it happens, great, but I just need to keep doing the same thing.”
Fellow Aussie Robyn Choi moved into a tie for 13th with a round of 5-under 67, Cassie Porter dropping from a tie for second to a share of 27th with a round of 3-over 75, level with West Australian Hira Naveed (74).
At a weather-affected Big Green Egg Swedish Open on the LET Access Series, Victorian Stephanie Bunque finished tied for second in what was ruled an unofficial event.
The tournament was reduced to 18-holes, Bunque (68) finishing one back of England’s Emily Price and level with Finland’s Karina Kukkonen.
Photo: Courtesy of Epson Tour