The first round of the Garden City Charity Classic at Buffalo Dunes saw more red numbers than in years past. With low winds, the course had little defense to low scores. A total of 80 golfers were able to break par in round one at Buffalo Dunes, with Gabriela Ruffels (62), Yue Ren (64), and Kaitlin Milligan (65) able to separate themselves from the field.
Ruffels started out the day tame for her standards, only going one under in her first four holes. However, the fifth hole of the day is when the round started for the former U.S. Amateur champion. Ruffels would go on to birdie nine out of her next fourteen holes with no bogeys, signing for a first-round 62.
"A lot was going right, I had ten birdies and no bogeys, so I am very happy. I think it is my best ever round," said Ruffels. "It just felt good out there, I knew I had to play aggressive. I was really happy, and I was able to capitalize on a lot of putts and post a really good number."
Ruffels is used to being at the top of the leaderboard, already capturing a victory and nine top-10s in her young career. The 23-year-old holds a two-shot lead and now owns two records at Buffalo Dunes Golf Course. The ten-under round was a tournament and course record for the longstanding Epson Tour event.
"It is really cool, it's awesome, and just really nice to hear," said Ruffels on breaking the tournament record. "It was more gettable today than it has been in years past. I played here last year, and if you asked around, everyone would tell you the wind was outrageous, so this weather was much appreciated."
Ren held the lead almost all day before Ruffels finally surpassed her late in the afternoon. Ren put together a streak of six straight birdies to close out her opening nine with a 30. A couple more birdies coming in was all she needed to record a bogey-free 64 and turn in her best-ever score on the Epson Tour since her rookie year in 2020.
"I feel really good about everything," said Ren. "I don't think a lot. I just play each shot and try to make it close to the hole. When I putt, I just putt straight on my line. I'm not thinking about the score, just playing my golf."
Milligan has had a rough start to her 2023 season, only making two cuts, and has yet to finish inside the top 50. However, the University of Oklahoma grad is finding her game and her confidence. The bogey-free 65 is Milligan's best score of the season, and she looks to build off her impressive first round.
"I have been needing it for a while, so my confidence is definitely a lot higher than it has been," said Milligan. "I was able to see what I am able to do today. I was able to get a few more putts to drop, and if I keep it up, I think it will be a really good week."
Bailey Shoemaker (-6, T4) on the importance of a solid first round:
"It's so important. The fairways aren't exactly huge, I only hit about five fairways with no wind, so you have to pick really good lines on this course. The wind just exaggerates it and makes it a lot different."
Regina Plasencia (-6, T4) on confidence going into the second round:
"I feel good. My game has been feeling good for a while now, so I guess today I put it all together. I got the ball closer to the hole and made the putts, so it just feels good all around. Hopefully, tomorrow we get nice weather in the afternoon and build off of today's round."
Mariel Galdiano (-5, T7) on her progress throughout the season:
"I'm getting better each week. I kind of struggled in the beginning of the season, but I'm finally finding my groove and feeling comfortable on tour, so that's been a good thing. It definitely helps a lot shooting a lower score, and now I have a good feel for the course and can play comfortably. I'll see what I can do. There's not too many expectations for myself, not too much pressure, just go out and have fun."