Former U.S. Women’s Amateur Champion, Gabriela Ruffels took home the Garden City Charity Classic at Buffalo Dunes trophy in historical fashion, carding a final round 71 to tie the Epson Tour 54-hole scoring record at 197 (-19). Ruffels finished her final nine holes with two birdies and no bogeys to close out a record-setting week in Garden City.
The 23-year-old started her week by breaking the course record (62, -10), and that was just the beginning. Ruffels would break a 20-year-old Epson Tour record when she posted her second round 64 (-8), which moved her to -18. Despite the big lead heading into the final round, the nerves were still there.
"I was definitely very nervous, but I knew I had a big buffer which really helped," said Ruffels. "I just tried to play every shot as it was and not get too ahead of myself. I was just trying to play super consistent today and I was able to do that today, so I was very happy."
Coming up the 18th hole, the University of Southern California alumna was already at the coveted -19 number. After a long drive and a well-placed approach shot, the Australian had a putt to get to -20 and break the 54-hole Epson Tour scoring record. The putt slid by the hole, and Ruffels tapped in for her par, but the 54-hole record was never on her mind.
"I didn't know about the 54-hole record," said Ruffels. "It kind of shocked me, but it is really cool. It is always good when you are setting records and hopefully there are more to come."
There will be a week off before Ruffels tees it back up again on the Epson Tour, and after six events, she has a significant lead in the Race for the Card standings. The season is only a third of the way done, but the Aussie feels like she is making great progress in her game.
"My game is good right now," said Ruffels. "This win is a big step in the right direction. We are all out here for the same reason and that is to get to the next level on the LPGA Tour. There is still a long season to go but I am definitely making some strides.’
Agathe Laisne had one of the more colorful scorecards on Sunday, only recording six pars in her final round. However, Laisne is not scared to go low in the final round, already firing a 66 (-6) to win the Florida's Natural Charity Classic earlier this year. She would card a bogey-free 29 (-7) to close out her tournament and climb up the leaderboard to a T2 finish.
"The round was great; I was making a lot of putts which was awesome. It was kind of a roller-coaster on the front, but I was able to turn in two-under," said Laisne. "Then when I got to hole 16, I thought to myself 'Oh, my record is -7 if I could just get to -8, that would be so sweet,' but I ended up getting -9 when I holed out on 18 and I am really happy about it."
The best round of the day, which saw plenty of low scores, belonged to Isabella Fierro. Fierro made a charge, despite being the first group off of hole one to start the day. The 22-year-old matched Ruffels course record with a final round 62 (-10). The bogey-free round moved Fierro up 29 spots and into tied second when the final putt finally dropped.
"I had a lot of fun with my caddie on the bag, he has been an awesome support all week," said Fierro. "I think staying in my routine since day one was the key and it felt great. The weather was amazing, I was in the first tee time which helped a lot. I was able to play fast and everything was just great today."
Rounding out the top five were Ga Yul Kang and Marta Sanz Barrio finishing in T2 (-15) and 5th (-13), respectively.
Ga Yul Kang (-14, 4th) on her first Epson Tour start:
"I didn't even think this would happen; my goal was just to make it to the final round, but I am super satisfied with how I played. I am very surprised with the performance I had, and I am going to take this confidence with me to Florida and try to improve my performance."
Ana Belac (-13, 5th) her front nine that included a hole-in-one:
"I was hitting my irons really really well. I had two tap-in birdies that I hit to about a foot and a half. I made a mess on the fifth hole after hitting the tree off the tee but then a few holes later I made a hole-in-one on the eighth hole. It was 158 yards with an 8-iron on the eighth hole, so eight is my lucky number. It is my second one in a tournament and eighth total. It is always really cool."