Tim Mickelson is the head men’s golf coach at Arizona State. The program’s most high-profile alumnus is Tim’s older brother, Phil. So if Tim ever wants some help recruiting kids to ASU, he’s got a pretty big name he can call on.
Tim played the “famous older brother” card recently with Ryan Ruffels, a 16-year-old who won the boys 15-17 division at the Junior World Golf Championships this past July at Torrey Pines. Ruffels is an American by birth, but he lives in Australia.
“I was out here putting and I got this call from an international number and I jumped on my phone and he said, ‘Hey, it’s Phil Mickelson,'” Ruffels told the Sydney Morning Herald. “I thought one of my mates from school was giving me a prank call.
“We chatted for an hour and I’m just starting to get some exposure to those big players and it’s great. They’ve obviously won majors and that’s something I’m trying to do when I’m older, so learning the ropes from them is pretty cool.”
Other big players Ruffels is referring to are Rory McIlroy and Adam Scott, the two top-ranked players in the world, with whom Ruffels played practice rounds last year. McIlroy gave the kid his phone number and said he could call for advice any time.
“It’s pretty cool. It looks good when you’re scrolling down the Ms in your phone and you see Rory McIlroy,” Ruffels told The Australian.
But knowing big-time players is one thing; being compared to them is another. Among the reasons ASU is hot on Ruffels’ tail is because he reminds some of another Aussie stud, world No. 8 Jason Day. Former Australian pro Jack Newton, who now runs the Jack Newton Junior Golf organization in New South Wales, says Ruffels is an “extremely good talent.”
“Ryan Ruffels is a tall lean kid who can belt it out there, and he’s got a good temperament. He’s going places, he’s still only 16. He’s probably close to being as good as [Day] was. We’ll just see what happens in the next couple of years because I saw Jason Day when he was about 17 at that stage,” Newton told the Sydney Morning Herald.
“[Day] was just well schooled, technique was good and I think they’re the two guys we’re going to hear a lot of in the future.”
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