Date: November 24, 2015
Author: Martin Blake

Lee, Ruffels win big awards

Two of Australia's best young players have been acknowledged at the Australian Golf Digest awards.

Nineteen-year-old Perth professional Minjee Lee was honored with the magazine's rookie of the year award, and also received the award as the female player of the year after her groundbreaking performances on the LPGA Tour in the United States.

Lee, the two-time Australian amateur champion, is a member of Golf Australia's rookie squad of growing young professional players. She is just outside the top 10 on the world rankings after winning more than $US800,000 in her first season, highlighted by a win in the Kingsmill Championship.

Her coach, Ritchie Smith, told the awards function that Lee's work ethic was remarkable.

"We'll have someone tee off and she'll be putting, they play their nine holes and she'll be putting, finish the game and she's putting, finish the lunch and she'll still be putting. That's pretty much what she does most days. She's a really hard worker, a great kid, she's thorough, she doesn't leave anything to chance.

"The core message for her is to 'have fun, don't do too much, everything in moderation'. We still want her to be that 19-year-old girl. She's had an upbringing where she hasn't been a normal girl. We're pretty keen to have her measure her training loads.''

Ruffels, 17, won the magazine's junior player of the year award, and also the amateur player of the year trophy.

The Melburnian ascended to No. 7 on the world amateur rankings in 2015, winning the Australian boys' title, leading Victoria to wins in both the junior and senior Interstate Series, and finishing runner-up in the Asia Pacific Amateur Championship. He remains a part of Golf Australia's elite amateur squad and is regarded as one of Australia's best male prospects for years.

Ruffels is playing in the Emirates Australian Open at The Australian this week, relieved that for the first time he can focus on a tournament without being concerned about his schooling. He completed year 12 studies at Haileybury College in Melbourne just more than a week ago, with an attendance rate of just 39 percent in year 12 because of tours of the United States and the UK for golf. "I've been trying to find an hour each day to do some study, so I'm glad that's over,'' he said.

The teenager played the Australian amateur at The Australian earlier this year, and the Open last year, so he is familiar with the surrounds. "I love the course. It's a very big golf course, it's a ball-striker's golf course. Hopefully I can hit a few good shots and post a score out there.''

Jason Day was named Golf Digest's player of the year after his remarkable 2015 performance in which he scaled to No. 1 in the world and secured his first major.

Cameron McCormick, instructor for Jordan Spieth and a former Melburnian, won the coach of the year award.

Simon Bourne from Cottesloe Golf Club was named superintendent of the year.