But just before eighth grade, his paternal grandfather, Richard Ruiz Sr., bought him a set of golf clubs. Wanting to spend time with his grandfather and his father, Richard Ruiz Jr., Ruiz started going out on weekends to hit balls. And eventually he started to play with his father and grandfather at Tierra Rejada and Camarillo Springs.
Blessed with a natural gift for the game, Ruiz used those talents and his baseball training to be able to fast forward his success in golf. Not surprisingly, the more he played and the more success he had the more he liked the game.
Over the course of the last four years, Ruiz has been on a steady climb when it comes to developing his golf skills, With the support of his family, and the help of his swing coach, Lindero Country Club teaching professional Matthew Lane, Ruiz has become a true force in junior golf.
Since arriving at Camarillo High three years ago, Ruiz has been one of the mainstays of the Scorpions golf team, teaming with Joseph Ahn and Bryce Haynes to form a terrific trio of golfers. Ruiz’s strong work ethic has helped him improve dramatically over the last three seasons.
In 2011, Ruiz produced some spectacular golf, helping the Scorpions earn team success in the process. But Ruiz saved his best play for the last part of the season, highlighted by finishing in a three-way tie for first at the CIF/SCGA Tournament, allowing him to be the only golfer from Ventura County to earn a spot in the CIF State Tournament at Poppy Hills Golf Course.
For his efforts, Ruiz has been named the Star’s Golfer of the Year.
At the start of the season, Ruiz said he set three goals for himself. One was to be his team’s MVP which he was. A second goal was to make it to the state tournament, which Ruiz also accomplished. The third goal was to post a scoring average of under par, which he barely missed, finishing with a season scoring mark of 72.5.
“I didn’t reach all of my goals and I wasn’t as consistent as I wanted to be, but I was happy that our team played so well and with how I finished the year,” Ruiz said. “I didn’t play the kind of golf I wanted to play at the State Tournament so one of my goals for next season is to get back there and show everyone how I can really play.”
Camarillo head coach Bill Dowden has had a long line of strong players come through his program. The veteran coach said Ruiz impressed him from the first time he saw him.
“He has tremendous natural athleticism and great hand-eye coordination,” Dowden said. “Johnny has tremendous upside potential and will only get better in the future due to his desire, work ethic, excellent swing coach, and love of the game. He sets a goal and then puts in the hard work to achieve it.
“Besides that Johnny is a humble young man, and is a pleasure to coach. His teammates, fellow competitors, and area golf coaches all respect him as a great player and fine young man.”
Ruiz admits that when he first took up the sport his swing was far from perfect, in fact he said when he first started working with Lane he was a complete mess.
Ruiz and Lane have worked hard over the last few years to strengthen his swing, shortening it and trying to get it as consistent as possible.
“Matt has made my swing so much better,” Ruiz said. “He is best swinger of the golf club I have ever seen. He is perfectionist and that helps me because every time we watch my swing he finds something else for me to work on,. I enjoy that process because I want it to be as good as it can be.”
Ruiz said one of the areas he plans to spend a good part of his summer working on is his short game, specifically his play from 100 yards and in. As he has started to play in higher level events, like the recent U.S. Amateur qualifying tournament where he qualified for the Junior Amateur, Ruiz has realized how critical it is to have a sharp short game.
“That is where you score,” Ruiz said. “If I can get to where I am hitting the ball well from 100 yards and in, I think I can play pretty well. I’ve been working on getting more consistent with my putting because this season I lost most of my shots around the greens.”
While the season just ended, Ruiz already has his sights set on the 2012 prep season, which will be his last as a high school player. Among his goals are to reclaim the Pacific View League’s individual title, which he won as a sophomore but lost this year to Rio Mesa’s Chad McLay. A subpar scoring average is also again on the list, along with making a better showing at the CIF State tournament,
“One of he things I like about golf is no matter how well you are playing, there are always ways things to do better,” Ruiz said. “I want to improve the mental side of my game and be able to bear down and concentrate even better, If you’re mentally strong you have a better chance to succeed.
“Starting late in golf, I feel like I have more to learn but also feel like I won’t burn out because I really enjoy playing and trying to improve.”