Royal Melbourne member Ryan Ruffels catching glimpses of home from Korn Ferry Q-School

Enrique Berardi/PGA TOUR

Royal Melbourne member Ryan Ruffels catching glimpses of home from Korn Ferry Q-School

Korn Ferry

Royal Melbourne member Ryan Ruffels catching glimpses of home from Korn Ferry Q-School

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WINTER GARDEN, Fla. – There are few courses Ryan Ruffels knows as well as Royal Melbourne. The 21-year-old is a member. He’s played thousands of rounds there between tournaments and afternoon nine-holers. Seeing it on TV this week as he grinds his way through the final stage of Korn Ferry Tour Q-School has been a welcome sight.

Nearly 10,000 miles away from pressure-packed Q-School, Royal Melbourne is hosting the Presidents Cup.

“You’ve got to be so versatile around there,” Ruffels said of a place that greatly shaped his game. “You can’t be one-dimensional with your short game or the way you approach greens or drive the ball. Everything is so strategic so to be able to grow up at a place like that, U.S. golf isn’t quite like that, but there are days like that where you do have to play a little bit that way.”

KORN FERRY TOUR: Q-school leaderboard

An opening 68 at Orange County National’s Crooked Cat course makes a good example. Ruffels and the rest of the field battled rain and wind. On the first tee, he had admitted to his caddie he didn’t have a clue where it was going. Still, he found “at least half” of the fairways.

Conditions were soggy again in the second round, but Ruffels managed a bogey-free 65 around the Panther Lakes course. He’s 10 under and four off the lead at the halfway point.

Ruffels was born in the U.S. but moved back to Australia when he was nine and thus holds dual citizenship. This is his second Q-School start, but his first time at final stage. Interestingly, Ruffels has played 19 PGA Tour events and made 43 PGA Tour Latinoamerica starts, but has never played a single Korn Ferry Tour event.

It’s been a bit of a bumpy ride for Ruffels, who turned professional in 2016 at the age of 17. Impatient for results, Ruffels changed swing coaches. Last year – after struggling with a lingering injury that resulted from dislocating his shoulder during the middle of a round (it popped back in and he finished the round, for those wondering) – he returned to coach Denis McDade, with whom he’d worked since he was 11 years old, and doubled down on his game.

“We took some time toward the end of last year,” Ruffels said. “Lot of frustration, lot of long days of scratching our heads, trying to figure it out. Once we knocked through that barrier, it’s been a lot better.”

Ruffels lost to Andres Echavarria in a playoff at the Molina Canuelas Championship, his second PGA Tour Latinoamerica start of the year. He made 12 cuts in 15 starts on that tour this season and ultimately secured a spot in this week’s final stage.

This past summer, Ruffels’ younger sister Gabriela – a junior at USC – won the North & South Women’s Amateur and the U.S. Women’s Amateur. Ryan calls his sister the hardest-working girl he knows, but she likely took a cue from big brother.

The Ruffels siblings are coming up in the world, but naturally, Ryan felt a little heat.

“I don’t want to be the brother of Gabriela Ruffels,” he said grinning. “I’d rather it be she’s the sister of Ryan Ruffels.”

The final stage concludes Sunday, when 40 players and ties earn status based on their position relative to the top of the leaderboard.

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