Hitting the links by day, and the ice by night
Garrett Rank, a full-time NHL referee, got off to a good start at the RBC Canadian Open
July 22, 2016
By Adam Stanley, PGATOUR.COM
- July 22, 2016
- Garrett Rank played his way into the field at the RBC Canadian Open by winning the Canadian Mid-Amateur Championship in 2015. (Graig Abel/Getty Images)
OAKVILLE, Ontario – If it wasn’t for what happened to Garrett Rank on Wednesday, his opening round 3-under-par 69 at Glen Abbey Golf Club on Thursday might have been one of the greatest days of his life.
However, the day prior to his first round at the RBC Canadian Open, Rank, 28, was hired full-time by the National Hockey League as a referee. He spent 2015 working between the NHL and its minor-league association, but this year, he’s made the big leagues, so to speak.
Rank plays top amateur events in the summer time, but he’s on the ice for nearly seven months of the year working full-time as a referee.
His “real” job makes for a fascinating line-of-questioning when talking to TOUR pros.
The amateur played a practice round on Tuesday with TOUR members Erik Compton, Steve Wheatcroft, and Jason Gore, and it wasn’t long before talk turned to his actual career.
“I was pretty nervous to play with them, then I think at the third or fourth hole they were like, ‘We’re pumped to play with you!’ ” Rank said with a smile. “A lot of war stories and a lot of hockey stories being shared throughout the round.”
Rank won the Canadian Mid-Amateur Championship in 2015, his second in a row, to earn a spot in the RBC Canadian Open. In 2015, he shot 81-71 to miss the cut, and he was determined to have a better finish this time around.
He was paired with fellow Canadian amateur Jared du Toit, who opened with a round of 5 under. Rank chipped in for eagle on the par-5 18th to finish with his best round in a professional event.
“I told my brother (who is caddying for Rank) on Wednesday night, there’s tees and there’s pins and holes on this golf course, and there’s nothing different about it,” he explained.
So how does Rank stay sharp, golf-wise, during the NHL season? Fortunately, the league has a few warm weather cities, including Phoenix and two teams in Florida.
“I’d be lying if I told you that I didn’t take my clubs with me when I was on the road,” he said with a big smile. “I think it helps me and makes it a little easier for me because I know that this isn’t the end of the world, whether I shot 65 or 75.”
It’s easy for Rank to accept there are bigger things in golf, as he is a cancer survivor too.
He had testicular cancer in 2011 but managed to beat it. Now, he has a 100 percent clean bill of health.
“As silly as it sounds, I never truly believed I had cancer,” Rank once explained. “I know I did; the test results showed that. But I think that mentality helped me through that.
“I thought to myself, ‘You’re a young athlete in great shape. You’re a good kid. You never did anything to deserve this.’ I always thought of it as a lie, or that it wasn’t actually true. That helped push me a long.”
Thankfully, Rank said, it was a simple procedure. He’s been monitoring it and remains in peak physical condition.
A few years after his cancer scare, his father, Richard, passed away at 57 due to a heart attack.
Nearly one year to the day after that, Rank made his NHL referee debut at a Buffalo Sabres game. Buffalo is less than two hours from his hometown of Elmira, Ontario (population: 11,000) and there was about 250 family and friends there.
He said he wasn’t that nervous, but the NHL had to conduct a video review on a goal he allowed about five minutes in to the game, and the league reversed the call on the ice.
“That was pretty funny,” he said. “It settled me in. All the guys were first class, both organizations, they were congratulating me.”
With the summer in full swing, no pun intended, Rank has had a collection of solid finishes in amateur events around North America, including a second place at the Sunnehanna Amateur Golf Tournament of Champions, which took place a week after his final NHL game of the year.
Obviously, Rank would love to make the cut at Glen Abbey. No matter what happens, though, he’ll soon have skates to sharpen and a whistle to blow. The 2016-17 NHL season is just a few months away.