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HomeNewsGolf: Ryan Ruffels starts Vic Open with 11-under par 61

Golf: Ryan Ruffels starts Vic Open with 11-under par 61

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A decision to come home and play for the first time since 2019 paid dividends for one-time teen phenom Ryan Ruffels after an opening day scoring blitz at the Vic Open.

Ruffels, who turned pro when he was just 17 in 2017 but has battled for success in the professional ranks, shot a stunning 11-under par 61 to scorch the field in perfect conditions at 13th Beach on Victoria’s surf coast.

After starting with two pars, playing the back nine first, the 24-year-old exploded with three birdies and back-to-back eagles on the 16th and 17th holes and reached seven-under when he turned for home.

Those two eagles were courtesy of a hole-out from 100m on the par four 16th hole and a chip in from behind the green on the par five 17th.

Four more birdies on his back nine was enough for Ruffels, who is based on the US but plans to play in Europe this year, to equal the course record and sit on top of the leaderboard, two shots clear of local lad Deyen Lawson.

“I knew I was improving,” Ruffels said after his round.

“I’ve worked very hard on my mental game, just becoming a better person before a better golfer and I think that’s helped a lot.

“I‘m relaxed being back home in Australia, being around a lot of the boys I grew up with.

“I want to also show them that I can still play.”

Ruffels, the son of former tennis pro and coach Ray, played with Elvis Smylie, whose mother Liz won four grand slam doubles titles in her own stellar tennis career.

He said the comfort rubbed off on both, with Smylie carding his own seven-under round of 65.

“I remember being with Elvis at the Queensland event prior to the Aussie Open tennis because both our parents were professional tennis players so we used to hang out,” Ruffels, said.

“Feeding off each other is a weird one, I don’t know if there’s anything to it, but it certainly happened today.”

The winner of the Vic Open will go a long way towards finishing in the top three on the Australian tour of merit, which guarantees a DP World Tour (formerly the European Tour) playing card.

Despite playing in several US PGA Tour events on sponsors’ invitations since turning professional, Ruffels has never had full playing status on a main tour.

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