January 15, 2016 / 4:22 AM / 3 years ago

Australia's top amateur Ruffels turns pro

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australian teenager Ryan Ruffels, the 2014 world junior champion, has decided to turn professional and head to the United States to try his luck on the PGA Tour, Golf Australia said on Friday.

Jul 24, 2015; Oakville, Ontario, CAN; Ryan Ruffels (AUS) tees off on the third tee box in the second round of the RBC Canadian Open at Glen Abbey Golf Club. Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

The 17-year-old will make his professional debut in the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines later this month and play again at the AT&T Pro-Am at Pebble Beach two weeks later.

“As much as the amateur stuff is great ... the real stuff is going to be on the pro tour and I’m glad I’m going to get into that now,” the twice Australian junior amateur champion said in a news release.

“For a while now, as much as I’m 17, I feel like I’ve been playing the amateur and junior stuff for a long time ... I feel like the time is right. I’ve done what I needed to do as an amateur.”

The Florida-born son of top tennis professionals Ray Ruffels and Anna-Maria Fernandez, Ruffels said his dual nationality and some years living in the United States had made the decision over where to pursue his professional career simple.

“My family has a residence in southern California, which is nice as a base, and I’ll look to base myself in Florida a little later on this year around family friends,” he said.

“I play well over there and I’ve spent a little part of my life growing up over there.”

Ruffels scored a first round 66 at the Canadian Open on his U.S. PGA tour debut last year and has also played events on the European and Australasian Tours.

It was at Torrey Pines where he emulated the likes of Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods by winning the Junior World Golf championship in 2014.

“Obviously I’m going to be nervous playing in my first event as a pro, but that’s the way it is and I’ll be on a course I know really well, I’ve played really well at and I’ve actually won around,” Ruffels said.

Reporting by Nick Mulvenney, editing by Peter Rutherford

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