Prodigious talent Ryan Ruffels has broken out of a horror 12 months by finishing second at the Buenaventura Classic on the PGA TOUR-LatinoAmerica tour in Panama.
Without a top-10 finish anywhere in the world in almost two years, Ruffels made just five cuts in 2018 as a shoulder injury severely disrupted his season.
Without status on the LatinoAmerica tour having finished 71st on the order of merit, the 20-year-old made the decision to play in the Malinalco Classic in Mexico, the Dev Series Final for those seeking to play their way onto the main tour.
A tie for third was enough to ensure Ruffels had a place to play in 2019 and he then set about rebuilding both his body and his game with coach Denis McDade.
“It’s been a lot of progress since the end of last year when not a lot was going right for me,” Ruffels revealed after a final round of 1-under 71 to finish tied for second, five shots behind American Jared Wolfe.
“I didn’t quite have it, and I worked very hard over the offseason, so it’s very nice to early in the season see a few things start to pay off.
“I’ve been working hard. We’ve put in time the last few weeks back in Australia. We’ve been working really hard doing all the right things.
“I’ve started to really turn the corner and hit the ball really well.”
Due to celebrate his 21st birthday later this month, Ruffels’ only other start this year was an invitation to play in the PGA TOUR’s AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am where he missed the cut.
He began the Buenaventura Classic with a bogey at the par-4 first but bounced back to turn in 1-under and then made three birdies and an eagle in the space of four holes to finish the first round at 6-under par and with a share of the lead.
A second round of 75 shuffled Ruffels down the leaderboard until a 4-under 68 put him back within reach heading into the final round, crediting his short game for keeping him in the hunt.
“I chipped unbelievably the first three days. Had I chipped even decent today, I probably could have given him a little bit of a scare,” Ruffels said.
“[Wolfe] was too good. He played great.”
It was an encouraging start to the LatinoAmerica season also for New South Welshman Harrison Endycott who finished just outside the top 10.
Nineteenth on the order of merit last year, Endycott saved his best round of the week until last, rocketing up the leaderboard 11 places into a tie for 12th thanks to a 4-under 68 that was bogey-free until the final hole.
Buenaventura Golf Club, Rio Hato, Panama
T2 Ryan Ruffels 66-75-68-71—280 $13,066.67
T12 Harrison Endycott 72-71-75-68—286 $3,850
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