Not since Andrew Tampion represented Victoria in 2002 has a male under the age of 18 been selected in the open age Men’s State Team. But in 2013, the Vics will welcome two young prodigies to its team with 15 year old Ryan Ruffels and 17 year old Lucas Herbert getting the nod last week to play in the upcoming Australian Men’s Interstate Matches at Tasmania Golf Club from April 30 – May 3.
Ruffels, currently just 14 years old turns 15 on April 29, the day prior to competition commencing becomes the youngest player in Victorian golf history to represent his state at senior level. The talented youngster’s family is no stranger to elite sporting competition being the son of former tennis professionals Ray and AnnaMaria Ruffels.
Currently a +3 marker and Pennant player at Victoria Golf Club, Ruffels is also an outstanding tennis player in his own right but is focusing the majority of his sporting attention at a career in golf.
For Herbert, selection to the team solidifies what has been an impressive past 12 months for the regional Victorian from Neanger Park Golf Club. Just two months ago, Herbert was desperately close to winning the inaugural Heritage Classic on the PGA Tour of Australasia, losing out to eventual winner David Bransdon in a three-way playoff with Max McCardle.
Herbert is currently playing Pennant for Commonwealth and will enjoy once again teaming up with Ruffels after the duo played together in the victorious Australian open age team at the Ten Nations Cup earlier this year in South Africa alongside fellow State Team member Geoff Drakeford and World No. 2 Amateur Brady Watt (W.A.).
Marty Joyce, head coach of the Men’s Team and VIS is excited to see both Ruffels and Herbert earn selection and believes neither will have trouble mixing it with players much older than them.
“Other States have had kids of that age but it’s relative to the standard and depth Victoria has produced and it’s always been hard for even a kid of 16 or 17 to get into our State squad.
“We’ve been working with Lucas through U14’s and U16’s over the last few years and into the Junior State Team. Both Lucas and Ryan are in the Golf Australia National Program where I’ll work with them as well. Lucas has just been put into the VIS program which is exciting times for him.
“Lucas has played in a quiet a few national selection events so a lot of the guys that he’s going to be faced with at the top end, he’s already seen before. For Ryan and Lucas, they’ve both represented Australia on numerous occasions including just recently the winning the Ten Nations Cup in South Africa and both performed very well at an international level.
“In some ways the way it’s structured now, those guys are getting a lot more access to that level of play earlier and they’ve obviously been able to step up to the plate.
“It’s going to be an interesting year. On paper we’re looking very good but we’ve looked very good in the past on paper. It’s exciting to have a lot of new guys and new faces to some degree than what we’ve had over the last few years,” Joyce said.
In contrast, the Victorian Women’s State Team will continue the trend of having representatives under the age of 18 with three of its six players being underage in Su-Hyun Oh, Julienne Soo and Bianca Ling.
The Women’s Team will travel to Royal Hobart Golf Club to compete in the Women’s Interstate Team Matches from April 30 to May 3.