It wasn’t long ago that Ryan Ruffels wasn’t in a great spot.
There wasn’t much going right with his game and in November he had just missed the cut at the Argentine Open in Buenos Aires – and with it any chance of keeping his Latinoamerica Tour card.
The cold hard truth was that he wasn’t even close to making it to the weekend (75-76). It was his fifth missed cut in his previous six PGA Tour Latinoamerica starts and his only made cut during that stretch was a tie for 38th at the Neuquen Argentina Classic.
The young Australian had a decision to make.
Although it wasn’t where he wanted to go, Ruffels decided to play in the Malinalco Classic in Mexico, the Dev Series final. The Dev Series is a group of tournaments affiliated with PGA Tour Latinoamerica, giving up-and-coming players a place to play their way on to the tour’s next season.
Ruffels travelled to Malinalco without many expectations, opened 69-70 and was tied for 14th heading to the weekend.
But it was during his final 36 holes that the Victorian’s fortunes changed.
He fired a four-under 68 in the third round and bettered that by two strokes on the last day to finish alone in third to earn himself status back on to the Latinoamerica Tour for 2019.
Fast-forward to Panama this week at the season-opening Buenaventura Classic and things look considerably brighter for the 20-year-old.
Only a second-round 75 hurt his chances, but his opening 66 and closing 68-71 were still enough for him to secure a tie for second with American Mitchell Meissner and Chile’s Mito Pereira, five shots behind winner Jared Wolfe.
The dual Australian Junior champ was philosophical about his final-round play at Buenaventura Golf Club.
“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, (but Wolfe) was too good, he played great,” Ruffels said.
“It’s been a lot of progress since the end of last year when not a lot was going right for me. I didn’t quite have it.
“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.”
Ruffels returned to Melbourne to work with the coach he had since he was 11 years old, Denis McDade, and the student-teacher relationship has paid off during their latest iteration together.
“I’ve been working hard. I’ve been playing pretty well. We’ve put in time the last few weeks back in Australia. We’ve been working really hard doing all the right things,” Ruffels said.
“I’ve started to really turn the corner and hit the ball really well.”
With newfound confidence, Ruffels will return to Argentina next week in a far better headspace for the Tour’s next event, the Molino Cañuelas Championship as he works towards a top-five money list finish and the resultant Web.com Tour status for 2020.
New South Welshman Harrison Endycott is also handy early in the season after finishing in a share of 12th after a closing 68 in Panama.