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Senior golfer aims at finishing career strong

Photo Courtesy of UTEP Athletics
Senior Golfer Roberto Ruiz finished 10th at the Lone Star Invitational.

With the five sports that UTEP offers for men, none may offer more individual effort for the well-being of the team as golf.

Among the leaders of the team, senior Roberto Ruiz has to be one of the best pillars of the team.

Ruiz has been a starter since day one at UTEP and is looking to close his career much like he started it, among the best in Conference USA.

Born in Torreon, Mexico, Ruiz has been playing the game of golf since he was 8 years old. It didn’t take long for Ruiz to enjoy success in the sport, playing at a high level almost from the start.

At the age of 12, he reached the top of the mountain when he became the Mexican national champion for his age group.

He was a natural and his success was the incentive he needed to take the sport seriously.

“When I was 15, I was pretty good. I was invited to international team events,” Ruiz said. “That’s when I decided to stick with golf.”

After graduating from high school in Mexico, Ruiz weighed his options for what his next step was going to be. Talking to some fellow golfers at UTEP, he decided to make the borderland the place where he would spend the next four years and get his education.

“After high school…I saw a couple friends going over there,” Ruiz said. “I wanted to go there and play golf.”

Ruiz made an impact at UTEP instantaneously. He was one of the top rookies in Conference USA and the best the Miners had in 2011. Ruiz was the team’s top finisher in five of the 13 tournaments he participated in, including a couple of top-10 and three top-20 finishes. He rounded out his impressive first year with a seventh-place finish at the Conference USA Tournament.

“I was excited to play with other good players,” Ruiz said. “At the end of the spring, I played pretty good. I had a couple of top-10 ends.”

It might seem like Ruiz regressed after his first year, redshirting his second year and unable to record a top-10 finish in either his sophomore or junior years, but his individual performance stayed consistent. He had a season scoring average of 75.2 and 75 as a sophomore and junior, respectively, compared to his 75.1 as a freshman.

A senior finance major, Ruiz is regarded as one of the most reliable players on and off the course.

“He has been a mainstay in our starting line up for the past three years,” coach Scott Lieberwirth said. “He is one of the most popular players on the team. Everyone gets along with him, a lot of good things he does for our program.”

Ruiz is looking to finish his career as a Miner on a high note. Of the 10 tournaments Ruiz has attended this year, Ruiz has finished among the top 20 four times.

This past weekend, at the Lone Star Invitational in San Antonio, Ruiz recorded his first top-10 finish, not only of the season but also in the past three years. He led his team to a third-place finish at the tournament and recorded a career-low with a round of 68.

He has had a turn-around season for UTEP and is one of the players that coach Lieberwirth can rely on. That’s exactly what he was aiming for in his senior season.

“I came back my senior year because I wanted to end strong,” he said.

Out of the 10 players on the team, four of them are seniors.Ruiz said he understands that he is in a leadership position for the team.

It can be considered an older team as there is only one junior on the team now. Ruiz and the other four seniors see this as an opportunity to be role models and set the tone for the rest of the team.

“He is a player that everyone likes,” Lieberwirth said. “A lot of the younger players look to him as a role model.”

With his sights set on a good performance at the conference tournament, he does not want to put the clubs away after that. Though he is close to getting his diploma, he is not interested in using his finance education after he graduates.

“I want to play golf, I see some of my friends on TV playing golf at the PGA and they get to be around the U.S, so I really want to play and I want to try to keep playing,”  Ruiz said.

The men’s golf team has just one more tournament scheduled before the Conference USA Tournament, which will take place from April 26 to 29. The focus is to compete for the top four spots that will play for the championship on the last day.

“As a team, that is our goal since the beginning of the year and we are close,” Ruiz said. “We have to play good the next couple tournaments to make it happen.”

Juan Carlos Navarrete can be reached at [email protected].

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Senior golfer aims at finishing career strong