Ruiz worked on putting drills for hours each day, and even went so far as to change his grip.
Ruiz showed up at Brookside on Tuesday armed with a higher level of confidence on the greens, and that confidence paid big dividends. On his second hole of the day, Ruiz holed a 15-foot putt for par, and from that point on, Ruiz felt like every putt he rolled was going in.
While that didn’t happen, Ruiz made enough big putts to fire a 4-under 68, leaving him in a three-way tie for first at the end of the round. That earned Ruiz one of the six individual spots in next Wednesday’s CIF State Finals at Poppy Hills Golf Course in Monterey. Moorpark’s Thomas Lim had to withdraw due to illness before teeing off.
Westlake High was involved in the team competition and needed to finish among the top three teams to advance. The Warriors had four of their five players shoot 77, as Westlake finished at 388, leaving them fifth. The teams that did advance were Torrey Pines (367), Servite (371) and Santa Margarita (374).
Ruiz, Ben Doyle of La Jolla High and La Jolla Country Day’s Anthony Paolucci went extra holes to see who would be the tournament winner.
Paolucci, the country’s top-ranked junior player, hit a poor drive on the first extra hole, leading him to make bogey and eliminating the USC-bound senior from the competition.
On the second playoff hole, Ruiz hit his drive right where it came to rest behind some trees and a fence. With no real shot, Ruiz opted to punch out from behind the trees but he also tried to advance his ball a little bit up the fairway so he would have a shot at reaching the green on his next shot.
His chip out went too far, coming to rest on the other side of the fairway, leaving Ruiz with more tree trouble. His next shot hit a tree and bounced into the fairway. His fourth shot came to rest just off the front of the green. Ruiz’s chip for par hit the hole and bounced out. He made bogey, allowing Doyle to claim the title with a par.
While disappointed he didn’t win, Ruiz was thrilled to be advancing to the final tournament of the season.
“One of my three goals for the season was to make it to the state tournament,” said Ruiz, who just missed being involved in a playoff at this same event last season. “My goal today was to shoot in the 60s so I am happy with.”
The six players from Westlake were also hoping to play one more round together this season. While they played OK, none of the six played up to their potential.
Senior Tyler Soosman said he was so nervous he was shaking through the first few holes. As a result he was 3 over after two holes. It wasn’t quite the start Soosman or any of his teammates expected.
“We were confident coming down here,” said freshman Sean Crocker. “For me, the past fur weeks I have been dealing with a big hook. This morning on the range I was hitting the ball straight but then I got out there and I pushed an iron shot. I just struggled all day, but it was still fun.
“For us as a team it was a great learning experience. I feel like it’s going to help us next year.”
Sophomore Brandon Kelly was in the same group as Paolucci, which meant he got to play in front of a slightly larger gallery than he was used to.
“It was fun,” Kelly said. “He’s a nice kid and he’s got a great swing. He was hitting it 325 off the tee.
“I was hoping to play better but this round will give me inspiration for next season to try and come back and do better.”