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Gabriela Ruffels has heard about the pressures of Q-School from friends and notably older brother Ryan, who earned status for the Korn Ferry Tour in 2020 through Q-School Finals.
Stage II of LPGA Qualifying begins this week in Venice, Florida, and Gabi, the 2019 U.S. Women’s Amateur champion, is among the headliners in the field of 179. The 72-hole, no-cut event is being held Oct. 21-24 on both the Panther and Bobcat Courses at Plantation Golf & Country Club.
The top 45 players and ties will advance to Q-Series, held Nov. 29-Dec. 12 on the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail in Alabama. Everyone in the field will receive varying levels of Symetra Tour status.
Australia’s Ruffels, 21, left USC a semester early to turn professional and officially graduated in August. She has spent 2021 bouncing around tours. Ruffels received six LPGA sponsor exemptions and Monday-qualified for the Cambia Portland Classic. She played her way into the ANA thanks to a T-15 at the 2020 event and followed it up with a 13th-place finish in 2021.
Another highlight, she said, was carding at 65 at Atlanta Athletic Club en route to a 25th-place finish at the KPMG Women’s PGA.
“If I went back and started the year knowing how many events I get to play,” said Ruffels, “I think I’d be pretty satisfied.”
Early in the year she picked up a new coach in Grant Price, who like Ruffels is a member at Isleworth, and feels that every part of her game has improved, including an extra 10 to 15 yards off the tee.
The former tennis player, who didn’t take up golf until age 15, has enjoyed an up-close look at Nelly Korda’s ascension to the top of the game. From Korda’s ball-striking to her level-headed approach, Ruffels has taken mental notes all year.
“It’s super simple in how she approaches the game,” said Ruffels. “It seems like she just steps up and hits it.”
One area that Ruffels didn’t feel prepared for was the loneliness aspect of professional life. It didn’t help that she was a bit of a visitor all year, bouncing back and forth between the LPGA and Symetra Tour. Last week she finished 20th at the LET’s Aramco Team Series in New York.
“I feel like loneliness is something that people don’t really talk about when you turn pro,” said Ruffels.
Veteran LPGA pro Amy Olson once said she felt that far more people struggle on tour because of a lack of community and loneliness than from a technical problem in their swing or putting stroke.
Ruffels has a dozen rounds of golf left before she can possibly secure LPGA status for 2022. One thing she’d love to have is the stability that full status offers. Simply put: It would be nice to plan out a schedule.
Ryan told his sister that coming down the stretch on Sunday at the final stage of Q-School was the most nervous he’d ever been.
“That’s basically what I’ve heard and what I’m expecting,” she said. “I’m looking forward to it.”