MANCHESTER — Luke Ruffing graduated from high school and went straight to work.

Well, not in the conventional sense. Consider this an investment in his future.

The 17-year-old from Manchester has spent the summer matching shots with the top professional and amateur golfers in the region, all with impressive results.

Even if the laid-back, unassuming Ruffing downplays it all.

“Summer is going alright. I played pretty well down south,” Ruffing said. “I finished second in the New England high school (at Keene, N.H.) and eighth down in the U.S. Junior Amateur (qualifier at Cohasset, Mass.) Not bad, but I haven’t won as much as I’d like to.”

Closer to home, Ruffing was the youngest player in the top 10 of the Maine Amateur at Woodlands Club in Falmouth, tying for seventh.

And this past week, within walking distance of home, Ruffing carded a 72 in the unique, weather-impacted, one-round format of the Charlie’s Maine Open at Augusta Country Club. That score of 2-over tied him for 12th low amateur in the event.

Ruffing was 2-under and only one stroke off the lead after his front nine. It was a far cry from his start on Monday, when he was 6-over after seven holes before torrential rain wiped out the opening round.

“Eight shots better through seven holes? Yeah, I’ll take that. Six-over (Monday) and even par after that,” Ruffing said. “I had a nice little run. I had two birdies, a couple of 12-footers. That was nice. I was just playing much more consistent.”

Augusta was no home-track advantage for Ruffing, who was homeschooled and represented Maranacook in golf and baseball.

He’s a member at Natanis in Vassalboro, where he won the Class B individual schoolboy championship as a senior.

“I just can’t stand these greens,” Ruffing said of Augusta. “I’ve never putted well here. It’s just hard to read. They feel like a carpet, which is usually nice, but just not here for me. Not my favorite.”

Ruffing made the same quantum leap in the 54-hole amateur showcase, improving from 79 to 77 to a final-round 70 that matched the low round of the tournament at Woodlands.

In both cases, Ruffing got annoyed with himself and got going as a result.

“Just motivation, really, because I did not show up ready to play (Monday at ACC), so that got me all fired up,” he said. “I didn’t finish the way I wanted to, but I played well.”

At Augusta, Ruffing was paired with past Maine Open winner Mike San Filippo and said he learned a great deal.

“It’s just fun to watch them how they can work their way around the course. He didn’t make a bogey,” Ruffing said. “It’s just impressive how they can just keep it rolling and make the big saves when they need to.”

Ruffing’s schedule stays busy in August.

This week it’s the Maine State Golf Association Junior Amateur at Val Halla in Cumberland, where Ruffing lost to Will Kannegieser by one stroke a year ago. Reese McFarlane of Cape Elizabeth and Drew Powell of Bangor also are threats to win.

Then comes the match play championship at Sable Oaks in South Portland. Ruffing was a semifinalist when the 2013 tournament visited Fox Ridge in Auburn, losing to eventual runner-up Joe Walp.

“I love match play. You’d think it’s different, but really you just have to go out and play the course,” Ruffing said. “I like the mindset of it. You just have to beat one guy. It’s a lot easier.”

Ledgemont Club in Seekonk, Mass., hosts the New England Amateur from August 18 to 20.

Then for many aspiring golfers his age, it would be off to a college in the south for freshman year. Instead, Ruffing intends to spend 2014-15 evaluating his future.

“I’m just going to work and play some golf by myself,” said Ruffing, who works at T’s Driving Range in Manchester. “I love it there. The Torringtons (Rawn and Judy, and son Tom) are great. I get to hit every day and I work three or four hours, so it’s not bad. I get plenty of time to practice my game.”

It’s hard to argue with the strategy and the results so far.


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