Gabriela Ruffels talks about Nelly Korda, lonely touring life, Q-School finals

by | Oct 21, 2021 | LPGA

Gabriela Ruffels has heard of the pressure of the Q-School from friends, and in particular her older brother Ryan, who achieved the status for the Korn Ferry Tour through the Q-School finals in 2020.

Phase II of LPGA qualifying begins this week in Venice, Florida, and Gabi, the 2019 US amateur champion, is among the headliners in the 179 field. The 72-hole no-cut event takes place October 21-24 instead of both the Panther and Bobcat courses at Plantation Golf & Country Club.

The top 45 players and ties will advance to the Q-Series, which will run from November 29th to December. 12 on the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail in Alabama. Everyone in the field receives different levels of Symetra Tour status.

21-year-old Australian Ruffels left USC a semester early to turn pro and officially graduated in August. She spent 2021 bouncing around on tours. Ruffels received six LPGA sponsorship exemptions and qualified for the Cambia Portland Classic on Monday. Thanks to a T-15, she played her way into the ANA at the 2020 event and finished 13th in 2021.

Another highlight, she said, was carding at the Atlanta Athletic Club at 65 en route to a 25th place finish in the KPMG Women’s PGA.

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“If I went back and started the year knowing how many events I could play,” says Ruffels, “I would be pretty happy.”

Earlier this year she brought on a new coach, Grant Price, who, like Ruffels, is an Isleworth member and believes that every part of her game has improved, including an extra 10 to 15 meters from the tee.

The former tennis player who only started playing golf at the age of 15 has taken a close look at Nelly Korda’s rise to the top of the game. From Korda’s ball hits to her level-headed approach, Ruffels has been taking mental notes year-round.

“The way she approaches the game is super easy,” said Ruffels. “It seems like she just rises and hits it.”

One area Ruffels felt unprepared for was the loneliness aspect of professional life. It didn’t help that she was a little visitor all year round, bouncing back and forth between the LPGA and Symetra tours. Last week she finished 20th in LET’s Aramco Team Series in New York.

“I feel like loneliness is something people don’t really talk about when you go pro,” said Ruffels.

Veteran LPGA pro Amy Olson once said she felt that a lot more people on tour are struggling because of a lack of community and loneliness than a technical problem with their swing or putting.

Ruffels has a dozen rounds of golf left before she can potentially secure LPGA status in 2022. One thing she would like to have is the stability that full status provides. Simply put, it would be nice to have a schedule.

Ryan told his sister that he was more nervous than ever in the final stages of Q-School on Sunday.

“That’s basically what I’ve heard and what I’m expecting,” she said. “I look forward to it.”