The 2023 Epson Tour season has ended, and with that comes the end-of-the-year awards. Gabriela Ruffels secured 2023 Epson Tour Player of the Year honors with her T14 finish at the Epson Tour Championship. With the Player of the Year award, Ruffels took home an additional $5,000 provided by the Seiko Epson Corporation for her outstanding performance during the season. The Australian is one of 10 athletes who achieved their lifelong dream last week and will now take their talent to the LPGA Tour.
"It means everything. It's a dream come true," said Ruffels. "It was kind of surreal being at that card ceremony after last year and what happened with Q-School registration and everything. So super grateful to be here, and definitely a dream come true, and I can't wait for next year."
The 23-year-old had an opportunity to play her way onto the LPGA Tour after finishing No. 15 in the Race for the Card standings in 2022 and earning a spot at LPGA Q-Series, the final stage of LPGA Tour Qualifying School. However, Ruffels missed the deadline to sign up for LPGA Q-Series and had to return to the Epson Tour for the 2023 season. The experience would have derailed many players, but Ruffels used it as fuel to make sure she would finish inside the Top 10 and would not even have to think about the 2023 LPGA Q-Series.
Although Natasha Andrea Oon gave Ruffels a run for her money a few times throughout the season, the Epson Tour sophomore secured the Player of the Year award with three victories and three additional top-10 finishes in 13 starts. The $159,926 Ruffels made in her 2023 campaign was the second most earned on the Epson Tour, behind LPGA Tour winner Madelene Sagstrom, who collected $167,064 in 15 events during the 2016 season.
The University of Southern California alum is no stranger to playing on the big stage and will be a force to be reckoned with in 2024. In 2023 alone, Ruffels played in two majors on the LPGA Tour and made the cut in both. She has played in eight majors in her career, only missing the cut in one. When she looks at those results and her outstanding play on the Epson Tour, the Australian has never felt prouder than she did on Sunday at the LPGA Card Ceremony.
"I would say right here, right now (is my proudest moment). Getting this award and getting Player of the Year is just awesome. I missed out marginally last year. I think 15th," said Ruffels. "So to not only get my card and finish in this way, I feel like I really kind of earned it, and that's the most gratifying thing."