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ORLANDO, Florida – Gabriela Ruffels wrapped up her first LPGA start as a professional at the Gainbridge LPGA with an even-par 72 to finish T-37. She collected an $11,197 paycheck for her efforts.
“I thought I hit it went really well,” said Ruffels, who called Lake Nona one of the most challenging courses she has played. “A little bit disappointed at the moment because I never really got anything going.”
Ruffels, who turned professional two weeks ago, forgoing her final semester at USC, competed in the Gainbridge on a sponsor exemption. She currently does not have status on any tour as Q-Series was canceled last year.
Both non-members and members are allowed up to six sponsor exemptions each year on the LPGA. Her upcoming spot in the ANA Inspiration, however, does not count against the six as she earned her way in via a top-15 finish in 2021.
Ruffels, 21, might also get into some Monday qualifying fields later in the year. Brooke Henderson secured her LPGA card in 2015 by Monday-qualifying for the Portland Classic and then winning the tournament by eight strokes.
Ruffels was recently offered a spot in the Symetra Tour’s IOA Championship in Beaumont, California, March 26-28. She’ll play in the IOA if she doesn’t get into the LPGA’s Kia Classic, held the same week (she’s still waiting to hear about the exemptions for that event). The Beaumont event is about 30 miles from where Ruffels’ family has a place at Toscana Country Club in Indian Wells.
She also has a start in the Symetra Tour’s inaugural Copper Rock Championship in Hurricane, Utah, in late April.
To earn her LPGA card and avoid Q-School, Ruffels would have to either win an LPGA event or earn the equivalent of the top 40 on the CME points list by season’s end. (In that past, it was the equivalent of the top 40 on the money list.)
Last year Ruffels, the 2019 U.S. Women’s Amateur winner, posted top-15 finishes in both the ANA and U.S. Women’s Open.
She’ll have to go through qualifying to get into this year’s U.S. Women’s Open at Olympic Club in San Francisco. Points from that event will count toward her earning her LPGA card, a rule that was changed after Stacy Lewis finished third at the U.S. Women’s Open in 2008 and got nothing for it.
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