We caught up with Johnny Ruiz, a native of Camarillo, California and the winner of the 2017 Staal Foundation Open presented by Tbaytel.
How’s the off-season been treating you?
"Very well so far. Took a little bit of time off from golf with friends and family and spending as much time as I can at the lake."
After a great Mackenzie Tour - PGA TOUR Canada season and finishing top 3 in the Order of Merit, what are your goals for 2018?
"I haven’t been able to really sit down and fully write out my goals yet, but I do have a few that come to mind. First and foremost, finishing top 25 on the Web.com Tour. The main goal is playing well enough to make it onto the PGA TOUR.
Another goal is to improve my status on Web.com Tour for this upcoming season. That’ll be coming up in December; where I’ll play in the final stage of Q-School in Arizona to hopefully upgrade my standing.
Lastly, I’m just looking to get better in every aspect of the game. I’m putting in a lot of work to get my game where it needs to be."
Johnny with his caddie David Polanco after capturing the victory at the Staal Foundation Open presented by Tbaytel.
With many Mackenzie Tour alumni seeing success at the next level, such as Staal Open-winner J.J. Spaun and PGA TOUR winners Tony Finau and Adam Hadwin, what do you think this says about the Mackenzie Tour - PGA TOUR Canada?
"From what I see, playing with the guys on the Mackenzie Tour every week, the top 10 – top 20 guys are ready to play on the PGA TOUR right now. The level of play the guys on the Mackenzie Tour are capable of is very high.
Robby Shelton (finished 2nd in Order of Merit) has already had some good finishes in PGA TOUR events, such as the Barbasol Championship (which Shelton has played in the last 3 years). From Kramer [Hickok], to Robby [Shelton], to myself and many others on the Tour; we have the talent to make it and the ability to perform at any level."
Speaking of success at the next level, you played your first PGA TOUR event this year at the RBC Canadian Open. How was that experience? How much did it differ from playing on The Mackenzie Tour - PGA TOUR Canada?
"Playing on the big stage for the first time, there’s a little more nerves. A little more jitters off the first tee. But I was there with my girlfriend and my coach so that help keep things more relaxed. I didn’t have my best stuff on the second day but ultimately, I’m happy with the result. It gave me something positive to build on."
Johnny stares down a putt on the 18th green at Whitewater Golf Club.
Was winning the Staal Foundation Open a catalyst for your great play the rest of the year?
"For sure, I knew I could win on the [Mackenzie] Tour and I finally did it. I feel I had two important turning points in my season. One of them was winning the Staal Open; that was a huge confidence boost for me.
Another was earlier in the season in Kelowna, where I shared the lead going into the final hole. Robby Shelton ended up getting the victory, but I finished T2 and was looking to build on that finish the rest of the year."
What did you think of playing in the Staal Foundation Open?
"It was awesome. Everything from going through the tent walking into the course and being greeted by 2 or 3 volunteers, to actually playing in the Open, was great. The course itself was great. It really is one of the best events on the Tour.
One of the most memorable moments was of the Volunteer appreciation party after the event. Everyone who was so supportive during the event was there wanting pictures and autographs. My caddie even got to sign his first autograph. The Volunteers were always present during the event and it was great to get to address them at the party and let them know how much I appreciate what they do."
Johnny's winning scorecards displayed in a frame, highlighted by shooting in the 60s both days on the weekend,
What did you think of your time in Thunder Bay?
"It was actually my first time in Thunder Bay and it was a great experience. Everyone I met was super nice and supportive, from high-fives to asking for autographs. During the week I really wanted to get the win and knew I had a good shot... I wanted to stay focused so most of my time was spent at the hotel [Valhalla Inn]. The hotel was very nice and the staff was great; we ended up eating at the restaurant there most nights."
Any message you’d like to extend to your fans in Thunder Bay?
"I just want to make sure that everyone knows how appreciative I am of all the support. Thank you to everyone, especially to all I didn’t get a chance to thank while in Thunder Bay."
What do you like to do when you’re not golfing?
"When I have the time, I love spending time at the lake. Wakeboarding, tubing, being out on the boat. I try to take a day or 2 every month to get out there.
I also enjoy playing some basketball at the gym when I get the chance. I’m a big sports guy so I’ll try and get involved with any sport I can."
Keep track of Johnny's play as he partakes in the Aruba Cup from December 11-16 before moving on to the Web.com Tour in 2018.
A huge thank you to Johnny for taking the time to do this interview.