[PHOTO: Courtesy of Epson Tour]

There is no longer an instant ‘Battlefield Promotion’, but Gabi Ruffels has guaranteed her promotion to the LPGA Tour in 2024 with a third win of the season at the Epson Tour’s Four Winds Invitational in South Bend, Indiana.

A second round of seven-under 65 gave Ruffels a two-stroke advantage heading into the final round and despite a bogey at her second hole – her first and only bogey of the tournament – she was never headed.

For the third time this season, Ruffels turned a 36-hole lead into a victory, closing with a round of three-under 69 to win by three from American pair Katherine Smith (69) and Becca Huffer (70).

“It was kind of a weird round today,” Ruffels explained. “I started off two ahead, and then we got called off due to weather on the first green. I had like a four-foot birdie putt that I had to sit and think about. Then I made my first bogey of the week at No.2, so I got a little unsettled there.

“Other than that, I played pretty steady golf coming in, so I was pretty happy.”

The 23-year-old’s previous victories came at the Carlisle Arizona Women’s Golf Classic and Garden City Charity Classic at Buffalo Dunes, her latest win taking her prizemoney total for the season to $US156,283 and maintaining her status as No.1 in the Race For The Card standings.

She is the first Australian since Hannah Green to win three times on the Epson Tour and is now guaranteed one of the LPGA Tour cards given to the top 10 finishers on the moneylist.

Ruffels plans to compete in most of the final events on the Epson Tour calendar and fully prepare for what looks like her rookie season on the LPGA in 2024.

For now, three wins in 12 starts even had the Epson Tour sophomore a bit speechless and looking forward to remaining tournaments in 2023.

“I am not sure what my plan is yet; I haven’t even thought that far ahead,” Ruffels said with a smile.

“I am going to take a week off next week and go back home to California. Then I have a start at the Canadian (CPKC Women’s Open) on the LPGA Tour, so that’s what’s next right now.”

It is a remarkable turnaround for Ruffels who only narrowly missed out on promotion 12 months ago and then missed the deadline to submit her entry for LPGA Tour Q-Series.

Ruffels finished just $5,390 shy of an LPGA Tour card in 2022 and, after the disappointment of missing Q-Series, headed to Europe where she obtained her 2023 Ladies European Tour card.

Fourth in her first start on the LET, Ruffels would make three appearances on that tour before returning to America, victory in her second start of the year on the Epson Tour ensuring she would remain in the US in pursuit of LPGA Tour promotion.

The 2019 US Women’s Amateur champion, Ruffels has had three further top-six finishes on the Epson Tour this year and has made the cut in all three LPGA Tour appearances, including two majors.

Joining Ruffels inside the top 10 in Indiana was Robyn Choi (70), who was tied for eighth, as Cassie Porter (74) and Hira Naveed (75) fell outside the top 40 on the final day.