Australian Ryan Ruffels has exploded into the new PGA Tour Latino America season in style.
Lightning curtailed the season’s opening day of the Guatemala Open, but not before Melburnian Ruffels carved an inward 29 to shoot a dazzling six-under-par at La Reunion Golf Resort in Fuego Maya.
Playing in his first South American event as a pro, Sydney’s Harrison Endycott was also impressive to sit three under through 12 holes when play was abandoned for the day, while Perth’s Danny List also shone to sit two under through 15 completed holes.
Jonathan Sanders leads at seven under, but when both he and Ruffels turned after starting on the back nine, the young Victorian would have been the last thing on the American’s mind.
Despite several birdie chances, Ruffels had been one over at the turn after a double-bogey on the long 15th hole and with precious few signs of what lay ahead.
The 19-year-old soon rolled in birdies on the first and third holes to find red numbers, but then chipped in for eagle from 40m on the par-five fourth to really kick it into top gear.
The putter then began behaving and three more birdies followed on the fifth, sixth and eighth holes as the dual Australian Junior champion roared home in seven-under 29.
“It took me nine holes in some really windy conditions to get used to playing tournament golf again because it’s been a while,” Ruffels said of his summer break spent largely between Australia and Florida.
“Then once I got on to my back nine, I managed what I had very well.
“I didn’t feel great with driver, so with a few of these holes I can still hit my 2-iron a long way, so I got it out of the way.
“And then I just putted great and to shoot 29 on the front side was fantastic.”
“I actually had more chances on the back nine when I shot one over, but I just holed a few more putts (coming in).”
Ruffels, admitted on Inside The Ropes last year that burning the candle at both ends of the Americas had inhibited his progress in his first two seasons as a pro, despite some flashes of brilliance on the US PGA Tour, his ultimate goal.
But his promising start in Guatemala has reinforced his 2018 mission.
“My focus had been on the PGA Tour and trying to play well there,” he said.
“But this year I’m going to focus down here., Last year I only played about 10 events which was disappointing because I finished quite well every time I played, (but) I just didn’t play enough.
“So definitely this year the goal is to have a few wins out here, move up this order of merit and get on the Web (.com Tour) next year.
“If I get a start (on the US PGA Tour) somewhere along the way and it doesn’t coincide with this tour, I’d love to play, but I’m going to focus on the Latin American tour.”