by ALAN SHIPNUCK | GOLF.com – Tuesday, October 23, 2018
Johnny Ruiz is a young touring pro from Southern California patiently playing his way through golf’s minor leagues — the Canadian tour last year and the Web.com in 2018. Anonymity is part of the deal on these circuits, with sparse galleries and minimal media coverage. But Ruiz has discovered that wherever he goes a very specific kind of fan finds him. “Last year, my caddie and I always laughed about it,” says Ruiz, “because at every single tournament someone would send me a message saying, ‘I’ve been watching your swing on Instagram for so long, can you grab me a ticket so I can see it in person?’”
Things got more intense when he qualified for the 2017 Canadian Open on the PGA Tour. His swing coach of five years flew north to caddie for Ruiz, and they were serenaded throughout the week. “On almost every hole,” he says, “people were yelling out George’s name. It was kind of crazy — he was getting more love than most of the actual players.”
The guru in question is George Gankas, who inspires in his followers a fervor reserved for religious revivals. Gankas has more than 100,000 disciples on Instagram (@georgegankasgolf), and dozens of top young players treat his riffs as holy scripture. They flock to him because his ideas are at once simple and radical, and he preaches speed above all else. No one on the PGA Tour averages as much as 125 miles per hour of clubhead speed with their driver. (Dustin Johnson clocks in at 121.) Gankas has 20 players in his stable of collegians and mini-tour warriors swinging it 130 mph or above. But his appeal transcends mere mechanics.