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One to Watch! On the Up with Gabi Ruffels

Gabriela ‘Gabi’ Ruffels is well known in professional athlete circles. The Australian daughter of two tennis players, it took a while for the nine irons to call, but by her teens, Gabi was hooked, eventually earning a full scholarship to the University of Southern California.

She’s also the younger sister to Australian professional golfer, Ryan Ruffels. The idea of talented golfing siblings might bring to mind another Minjee and Min Woo Lee, but Gabi is busy securing titles in her own right.

The 23-year-old clinched her 2024 LPGA Tour card through the Epson Tour and secured her spot on the biggest stage in women’s golf. Already this year Gabi has scored a third place win the LPGA Cognizant Founders Cup at Upper Montclair Country Club, her best tour result as rookie so far! 

Women’s Golf caught up with Gabi to find out what’s next. 

Where are we most likely to find you teeing off these days?
I have based myself in the US and am currently living in Orlando, Florida which is where a lot of other Aussies have made their base while playing and travelling within America. I am a member at Isleworth Golf and Country Club in Orlando so play most of my golf when I’m at home there, or on any of the stops of the Epson tour which is pretty much spread all around America! 

What is your current fitness routine?
I like to do a lot of strength training and work with my trainer Luke Mackey on golf-specific programs that I am easily able to do at home or on the road. My goal is to do strength training 3 times a week and add in cardio 1-2 times a week (running or bike). 

What first drew you to golf and what keeps you going?
The relaxed atmosphere of it drew me in. I like the ambiance of a golf course with the trees and nature, and getting to walk 18 holes around it is one of my favourite things to do. I also love that is quite a social sport as you can enjoy playing with friends and family of all skill levels. 

How do you manage nerves before a big tournament?  
I like to focus on the things that I can control in competition and leave the other things out of my thoughts. I also like to remind myself that it’s not a huge deal in the long scheme of things how you play today, as it is just about trying to improve yourself and your standard of playing every day. 

What is your pre-game ritual or routine? 
I arrive at the course around 2 hours before my tee-off time. I usually grab a bite to eat and chill out for the first half an hour and then I go and do a physical warm-up in the locker room or fitness area for the next half an hour. I head to the putting green with an hour to go until my tee time and roll some putts, before going to the range. I then do some chipping, then putting again and then head to the first tee 10 minutes before my tee time. 

What do you think of the current crop of Australian pro golfer gals? 
I think the current crop of Australian pro golfer girls is really strong. It really started off with Minjee Lee and Hannah Green leading the way but now we have a great group of girls on the rise, such as Grace Kim, Steph Kyriacou, Su Oh and Karis Davidson. They are all great girls and I feel as though we all push each other to try to be better. 

What would you say to the next generation of young female golfers looking to go pro?  
I would say: always enjoy your golf and work super hard at it if you want to be really good! I would also stress that it is important to have a balance as once you do turn professional, golf can take over. It’s best to incorporate other hobbies or activities that will take your mind away from the golf course. 

What clubs are in your bag right now?
I play PING clubs for everything except my putter. My driver is a PING G425 driver and same with my 3-wood and driver. I play the PING i230 irons and PING Glide wedges. My putter is a Scotty Cameron Newport. 

What is your favourite Australian course?
My favourite Australian course would have to be Victoria Golf Club as that is my home course in Australia. That is where I started playing golf and where I have the fondest memories of playing golf in Australia. All the members there have been so nice and supportive of me and my golf journey while I have been playing and living abroad in the US. 

The future of women’s golf is...
Bright! This is in terms of talent and the trajectory of the women’s game. Golf is starting to become more and more popular amongst women choosing it as a career and women in general, which is great to see. The level of the women’s game is getting higher and higher and prize money for women’s golf is starting to see glimpses of rivaling the men, especially in the majors. 

Gabi Ruffles & Journey to the Tour

Fact: Gabi already has a bunch of elite titles to her name including first Australian to win the 2019 US Women’s Amateur and the 2020 US Women’s Amateur runner-up. In 2021, she debuted professionally at the Gainbridge LGPA in Boca Rica. Her competitive talent progressed rapidly from there and in March this year, she nailed her first professional win at the Carlisle Arizona Women’s Golf Classic on the Epson Tour (previously the LPGA Future Tour, the Epson Tour is known to be the most established women’s developmental tour in the world and is dubbed ‘the road to the LPGA’).

Gabi quickly followed the Arizona victory with two more wins at the Garden City Charity Classic at Buffalo Dunes in Kansas and the Four Winds Invitational at South Bend in Indiana.

She was the first player of the 2023 season to win twice - and then three times - on the Epson Tour, guaranteeing her promotion to the LGPA Tour 2024.

“Winning once on the highly competitive Epson Tour is a great accomplishment. Winning three times in one season is a feat only achieved by the most elite. Gabi’s success is a testament to not only her world-class talent but also to her resilience, positive attitude and hard work.” LPGA Commissioner Mollie Marcoux Samaan.

Words: Ronelle Richards