Luke Ruffing knew he had to improve his golf game, particularly off the tee, to meet his lofty expectations heading into the fall.
The Maranacook junior did just that, and the results showed up yet again on area courses.
Ruffing finished second at the Class B individual state championship for the second consecutive year. He also played a big role in leading Maranacook to a surprising second-place finish at the Class B team championship.
For his accomplishments this fall, Ruffing is the Kennebec Journal Golfer of the Year for the second consecutive year. Winthrop sophomore Taylor Morang was also considered.
“I put in a lot of hard work,” Ruffing said. “I knew I was much better than what I was last year, but the competition also got better. Finishing second again, it was tough. But I learned a lot this year.”
He improved a lot, too.
Ruffing, 16, of Manchester, spent the summer trying to improve his distance and the work paid off. Ruffing added 30 yards to his drive.
“My sophomore year, I was hitting a good drive about 230 yards,” he said. “It was a little bit of a disadvantage, especially against better players who are bigger than me. I was able to shoot around par, but I couldn’t get under because I didn’t have the distance. I knew I had to hit it farther.”
Added fifth-year Maranacook coach Ryan Meserve: “He had a remarkable season. He was determined to be more consistent this year. He gained 30 yards on his drive. He already had a good short game, and the distance made him all the more better. It allowed him to get closer to the green and he was right around par all the time as a result.”
Ruffing finished second at the Class B individual championship by one shot in 2010. At the event this season, which Natanis Golf Course hosted, he shot a 5-over par 77 to finish three strokes behind Cape Elizabeth sophomore Reese McFarlane.
“I had a couple bad holes where some putts lipped out viciously all day,” Ruffing said. “I couldn’t get anything to fall and you can’t win without a hot putter. I had to get off to a solid start, which I did. I made par in my first three holes, but then I misread a putt for bogey. It was tough because I really wanted to win states.”
Ruffing finished 8-0-1 this season and his overall average for nine holes was 35, Meserve said. Ruffing also shined at the team championships, which Natanis also hosted. He shot a 73 and helped Maranacook finish second to York.
“I didn’t expect us to finish second,” Ruffing said. “I thought maybe fourth or fifth. That was a nice surprise.”
The Black Bears went undefeated in the regular season, and Meserve said the team’s hot play helped push Ruffing.
“We had a good year as a team and that helped him keep things in perspective,” he said. “Luke really had a great year. He has high expectations. You can tell he wants to win. He hates to lose at anything and he tries to use that to his advantage. He wanted to win states, but it wasn’t in the cards this year. Maybe the third time will be a charm.”
Bill Stewart — 621-5640