RIO HATO, PANAMA – MARCH 27: Ryan Ruffels during the first round of the PGA TOUR Latinoamérica Buenaventura Classic (Photo by Enrique Berardi/PGA TOUR)

In November 2018, Ryan Ruffels was pretty down. There wasn’t much going right with his game, he had just missed the cut at the Argentine Open in Buenos Aires, and the truth is he wasn’t even close to making it to the weekend (75-76). It was his fifth missed cut in his last six PGA Tour Latinoamerica starts, his only made cut during that stretch a tie for 38th at the Neuquen Argentina Classic.

Very little was going right. Ruffels 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, the opportunity to play their way onto PGA Tour Latinoamerica. Ruffels traveled to Malinalco without a lot of expectations, opened 69-70 and was tied for 14th heading to the weekend. It was over his final 36 holes where Ruffels’ fortunes changed. He fired a 4-under 68 in the third round and bettered that by two strokes on the last day to finish alone in third. More importantly, the third-place finish gave him 2019 PGA Tour Latinoamerica status, membership he had lost with his 71st-place finish on the 2018 Order of Merit.

Fast forward to this week here, at the season-opening Buenaventura Classic, and things look considerably brighter for the 20-year-old. Only a second-round 75 hurt his chances. Otherwise, his opening 66 and closing 68-71 were enough for him to secure a tie for second with American Mitchell Meissner and Chile’s Mito Pereira, five shots behind winner Jared Wolfe, Ruffels displaying the vast talent that made him one of the top amateurs in the world.

Despite coming up short to Wolfe, a Tour and PGA Tour Latinoamerica veteran, Ruffels was philosophical about his final-round play at the Saturday-ending event 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. [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, 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.”

Ruffels indicated he has returned 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 added. “I’ve started to really turn the corner and hit the ball really well.”

The runner-up finish to start the season is evidence of that, and Ruffels, with newfound confidence, is ready for the Tour’s next event, the Molino Cañuelas Championship—with his eyes always on the Tour, membership cards available for 2020 to the top-five money-winners this season.

As he heads back to Argentina—in fact, Buenos Aires. Ruffels is in a much better place now compared to the last time he visited.

(Story courtesy of the PGA Tour)


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