Patrick Ruff is within touching distance of becoming a professional golfer and it’s all down to new US Masters champion Charl Schwartzel.
Inspired by the South African ace in 2003 while holidaying in sunny Tenerife, the talented teenager decided to take up the sport and emulate his idol who is ranked 11th in the world after his epic win last week.
Now eight years on, Ruff is playing off one, has recently completed an advanced apprenticeship in sporting excellence and is regarded as one of the most talented 18-year-old golfers in the country.
But it could have all been so different had he not followed Schwartzel around on the penultimate day of the 2003 Canaries Spanish Open.
Aged ten, the Sutton Coldfield Golf Club member accompanied his father, Steve, to the tournament held at Costa Adeje Golf Club after they were asked to be course marshalls during a previous visit to the course.
The 18-handicapper was already a keen golfer and jumped at the chance to follow some of the world’s top players on the European Tour event which included 26-year-old Schwartzel.
“Patrick is doing so well with his golf since he was inspired to take up the sport by Charl,” said Steve.
“We ended up following him by chance because he was playing with Miles Tunnicliff who was leading at the time so I thought it would be good to follow him.
“On that day Charl shot the best score out of the three-ball, which also included David Gilford.
“He was awesome, especially on the greens and it was no surprise to see him putting like that to win the Masters.
“Patrick was really impressed with him because he was only a teenager and he was playing so well.
“He was inspired by him and since that day he’s taken the sport really seriously and is hoping to be playing tour golf soon.”
Ruff remains hopeful that one day he will be appearing alongside Schwartzel but admits there is still a long way to go.
Having finished his golf-related apprenticeship at Solihull College, heavy tuition, including an intensive week-long coaching trip to Spain, has followed.
He is now aiming to lower his handicap to +3 by September and is setting his sights on the tour next year.
“I’m going to try and be a playing professional,” he said. “Before I met Charl I wasn’t serious about golf, but he made me really want to succeed.
“He was brilliant when we went round and looked like an all-round top golfer.”