Elmira golfer Garrett Rank was back in town this week after a major showing at the U.S. Open last month. Sharing the green with some of the sport’s premier players at the Open in Southampton, New York in June, Rank was one of only a handful of Canadians to qualify for the tournament.
For the Elmira native, who, when he is not on the green, also works as a professional referee in the NHL, reaching the U.S. Open marks a highpoint in his diverse athletic career.
“It was one of the greatest experiences in my golf career, probably one of the coolest things I’ve done so far in my life. Just to be out there competing in a major championship with the world’s best golfers and being able to be there with my family and friends, it was really cool as well,” said Rank.
“I’m a little bit disappointed with the way I played, but learned a ton about competing at that level, and definitely took a lot of positives away from the week.”
It was a challenging contest that saw Rank miss the cut with an 83 in the first round followed by 75 in the second.
“The golf course was amazing – very hard – but it was a pretty cool week,” said Rank’s brother, Kyle, who was at the tournament caddying for his sibling. “It’ll be awesome to be able to look back on future years and just sit around and say, ‘yeah we were there.’”
Like his brother, Kyle Rank has also made a considerable impression in Elmira himself through his work at the Friends of Hockey charitable organization.
“I think obviously he would have liked to maybe play a little bit better, but under those circumstances and the difficulty of the course, it was a pretty good week.”
But just reaching the U.S. Open was an impressive feat, as golfers had to compete through a gauntlet of qualifying rounds, beginning with the locals. Of the 8,537 competing at the local level tournaments, a mere 500 individuals advanced to the next round. Rank passed the local round at a tournament May 16 at the Mission Inn Resort and Club in Florida.
At the sectionals, the competition tightened as a further 860 players were whittled down to the top 78 to advance to the U.S. Open. Playing at the June 4 competition at the Ansley Golf Club in Georgia, Rank again clinched first in the top three spots out of 43 competitors, earning him a final pass to the U.S. Open later that month.
Having made it to the higher reaches of the sport, Rank is eager to qualify again for the Open.
“Yeah, I mean I’ve tried to qualify for the last five or six years and finally made it, and now that I’ve been there and experienced what it’s like, and have a taste for it, I’m definitely looking forward to trying to get back there,” he said.
Rank has a rather unique claim to fame as an athlete. A professional golfer competing at a world class tier on the one hand, and a referee for the NHL on the other, Rank has somehow been able to balance the two over his life.
“So I grew up like any Canadian kid playing hockey in the wintertime and golf in the summertime,” explained Rank. He pursued both sports with an equal passion, and won a scholarship to the University of Waterloo on his abilities as a golfer and hockey player. Eventually, Rank moved over to reffing in hockey, but continued to get in his time at the range.
“It was kind of what was going to happen first. Was I going to make the pros in reffing? Or was I going to make the pros in golf, and the NHL came up and offered me a contract, and my golf was going really well at that point, but it was something that I couldn’t say no to,” he said.