Seventy-two holes later, the Carlisle Arizona Women’s Golf Classic has a new champion. Gabriela Ruffels held onto her third-round lead and secured her first Epson Tour victory. The Australian finished the tournament -18 after signing for a -4, bogey-free final round.
“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.”
Ruffels carded only one bogey throughout the week, scoring par or better on 71 of the 72 holes. The 22-year-old was reminded by her mom, who has been on the bag for the past year, to stay patient throughout the tough and changing conditions.
“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.”
Missing out on her 2023 LPGA Tour card by five spots, Ruffels was eager to get back on the course and prove herself. The University of Southern California grad looks forward to developing her game on the Epson Tour and giving herself a good shot at moving up in 2024.
“I came in 15th on the Epson Tour last year and still felt like I had a lot to improve on,” said Ruffels. “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. Definitely having this win, any win but especially this one, is going to boost my confidence for the rest of the year.”
Finishing two strokes behind Ruffels, in second place, was Kathleen Scavo at -16. After finishing at No. 82 on the 2022 Official Money List, Scavo was happy to finish strong early in 2023.
“It was a very positive tournament overall,” said Scavo. “This is my best finish ever, and it’s been a long journey, and it feels really awesome that all my hard work has been paying off.”
After an up-and-down front nine, Scavo closed out her round strong. The 25-year-old was -5 through the final five holes, carding three consecutive birdies and an eagle on No. 18.
“Honestly, that last shot was probably one of the best shots I’ve ever hit,” said Scavo. “It was amazing. I’ve just been very thankful for my hosts this week, my mom came to the tournament, and it was a very supportive team. I can’t wait for next week.”
Rounding out the top five, tied for third at -13, were Maude-Aimee Leblanc, Karen Chung, and Min A Yoon. Leblanc and Chung shot a final round, -5, while Yoon signed for -1. A total of 54 players finished the tournament at even par or better.
Karen Chung (-13, T3) on a -5 final round before LPGA’s Drive On Championship:
“It felt great. I honestly didn’t expect to go out there and shoot -5 today, but I kept it together and stayed alive. It definitely gives me confidence going into next week [LPGA’s Drive On Championship]. I was a bit nervous because this was my first tournament back, but I’m a little more reassured, so I’m excited for next week.”
Minji Kang (-12, 6th) on making eagle on No. 18:
“The weather was very windy today, and it was pretty tough to play. But with the eagle, I had a good finish, and I can move with confidence to the next tournament.”
Katherine Smith (-11, T7) on a -6, bogey-free final round:
“It felt great; there’s definitely some relief and a lot of joy. I had so much support out here from people from Minnesota all week, so it was nice to play well in front of them and put together a solid tournament. It gives me a ton of confidence. We’re so early in the season, so it’s nice to get a good finish under my belt.”
Pernilla Lindberg (-6, 13th) on a -5 final round to move up the leaderboard:
“It obviously feels good to end on a good note here. I started on a good note on Thursday but had two rough days. I felt good about my game, but it’s nice to get it out today. I kind of got thrown off about the colder conditions and two early tee times the last two days; I kind of just lost rhythm, so it was nice to get back into good rhythm today and post a good number.”
Jessica Peng (E, T48) on a hole-in-one on No. 1:
“My heart was pounding after knowing I had made a hole-in-one. The shot was so straight toward the hole, and it landed just on the green. The first bounce went toward the pin, and I thought, ‘oh, that looks really hard; it might hit the pin.’ And it did hit the pin and went straight down. One of the girls in my group called it; she yelled, ‘go in,’ and then it did.”