It was Luke Ruffing’s white whale. For two years, he had come close, but he just couldn’t catch it.

That all changed in October.

Ruffing fought a cold and a rough start, but thanks to four straight birdies to start the back nine, he was able to finally capture the Class B individual state golf championship, finishing up with a 1-under 71 at Natanis Golf Course in Vassalboro.

It was a long sought after win for the Maranacook senior, who finished as the runner-up in each of the previous two seasons.

“It was more relief than anything else, just to say ‘Yes, I finally got one, it’s my time,'” Ruffing said. “The past two years just drove me so hard. I practiced like crazy the week leading up (to the tournament).”

“It felt great, to know how much work he put in for it,” Meserve said. “I know the first time he came in second place it was pretty hard. He felt like he learned from that and came really close the second time around last year. This year, especially the way he fought back, he didn’t get off to a great start. He had a big flurr, (four) birdies at one point on his back nine. I was there for the whole thing, it was great to watch.”

For his accomplishments, Ruffing is the Kennebec Journal Golfer of the Year. Ruffing was also tabbed with the honor last season.

The title didn’t come without some work, something Ruffing hadn’t been lacking during the offseason. He spent time practicing both on the course and at T’s Golf Academy in Manchester.

Ruffing worked on all aspects of his game, but especially kept focus on his short game.

“I’d use their short game range for about an hour or two and practiced until my hands bled,” Ruffing said.

The work paid off when it mattered most. Ruffing opened up the individual state title round with a three-putt bogey. But his putting improved on the back nine, knocking a downhill, 15-foot putt for birdie on the second hole of Natanis’ Tomahawk Course. He followed with a 12-foot putt for birdie on the third hole, and tap-ins for birdies the next two holes to help jump out to the lead. Ruffing’s 71 was three shots ahead of runner-up Lincoln Academy’s Seward Matel.

“It wasn’t pretty, my head was all over the place,” Ruffing said. “My nose (was running) constantly. I think it was a good weapon against the other players, constant sniffeling. Drove them nuts.”

Ruffing also shot a 71 at the Class B state team championship, which was the low score for the Black Bears. Maranacook finished with an overall score of 351. Camden Hills, with a score of 321, took home the title.

Ruffing said he was happy with how the team played throughout the season.

“I thought we did pretty well,” Ruffing said. “We lost our two, three and five man from last year, so a big part of our team was gone. The younger guys stepped up a little bit, and that was big at team states.”

Ruffing’s immediate plans include playing baseball in the spring. He plans to take a year off from school, refining his game and playing at amateur tournaments, before moving on to hopefully play golf in college.

Meserve believes Ruffing can be successful at the next level.

“He definitely has that dedication and desire to do that,” Meserve said. “He’s been as successful, if not more successful, than some people that I’ve seen make it onto mini-tours, or win Maine Amateurs or playing at the collegiate level, too.”

Dave Dyer — 621-5639

[email protected]

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