Standing on the tee in his PGA Tour debut, Garrett Rank felt a little nervous, and maybe even a bit claustrophobic looking out at the scores of fans lining the holes at Oakville’s Glen Abbey Golf Club.He’s been in the spotlight before, as a professional hockey referee working in the AHL and NHL, and a veteran of numerous high profile amateur golf events including the U.S Amateur.
But this, the Canadian Open, a tournament won by legends like Tiger Woods, Vijay Singh and Greg Norman, on a course designed by Jack Nicklaus, was different.
“Anytime you’re playing with professionals and you’re playing on essentially the biggest stage you can play on in the golf world, I was nervous, but I felt pretty good as the day went on,” Rank said.
The Elmira native qualified for the tournament by winning the Canadian Mid-Amateur Championship last September at the Barrie Country Club. The opportunity to compete against some of the world’s best golfers was a tremendous honour, Rank said.
“It was a fun week and something that I will remember for the rest of my life and it gives me the motivation to try to make it back there.”
The first round, on July 23, saw Rank struggle to a nine-over-par 81. But the 27-year-old bounced back the next day, carding a one-under 71.
The cut – top 71 players not including amateurs through two rounds – was set at two under par, so Rank didn’t get a chance to play through the final two rounds. But he was still fairly pleased with how he played, despite the rough opening round score.
“I felt like I didn’t actually play that bad, just a couple feet here or there took me from the fairway to the rough or from the green to missing the green and it was just tough to be able to control the ball from the long grass,” he said. “I played better the second day, but I didn’t even feel like I played that much differently. So it was a good learning experience for me just to see how important it is to get the ball in the fairway and on the green.”
Australian Jason Day edged past Brampton native David Hearn to win the event with a final score of 17 strokes under par.
The week before the Open, Rank took part in another high profile golf tournament, as a member of the Canadian Pan American Games golf squad.
In the individual event, Rank finished 15th overall after posting scores of 79-72-72-70 for a total of five strokes over par at Markham’s Angus Glen Golf Club.
In the mixed team category, Rank played alongside Austin Connelly and former LPGA Tour standout Lorie Kane. The trio placed eighth overall with a total score of 14 strokes over par.
“That was so cool,” he said. “It will probably be the first and last time I get to participate in a multi-sport games like that, but it was something that I will remember for the rest of my life. Just really neat being a part of the Team Canada community and you know, living and training with the different athletes all day, every day, and just experiencing the whole athlete’s village.”
Coming up this month, Rank will compete at the Canadian Amateur Golf Championship at the Weston Golf and Country Club and the Lambton Golf and Country Club in Toronto, August 10-13.
Then August 17-23 he’ll take part in the world’s most prestigious amateur tournament, the United States Amateur at Olympia Fields Country Club near Chicago, an event that has been won by greats like Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus, Bobby Jones and Phil Mickelson.