By Chris Stevenson, Rideau View Golf Insider
“It was one of the coolest things I’ll ever experience”
SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. — As Garrett Rank finished up his week at the 118th U.S. Open and putted out on the 18th green at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club Friday, the crowd gave the 30-year-old NHL referee a warm round of applause, much warmer than a guy who shot 18-over par for two rounds would normally receive.
After shaking hands with his friend and fellow Canadian Mackenzie Hughes and Australian Aaron Baddeley, one fan, a few beers deep, yelled out: “I still love you, Garrett. Go Islanders. Give us a call next year.”
It was typical of the type of love Rank received through the week after tieing for first place in his sectional qualifying and earning a ticket to the first major of his impressive amateur career.
He had an 83 in brutal, windy conditions on Thursday, but bounced back on Friday and was 1-under after five holes after birdies on the fourth and fifth holes.
“I said to myself I wanted to make at least one birdie in two days,” he said.
Bogeys on eight, nine and 10 sent him towards a 75.
He was still smiling as he did another series of interviews after his round as the stars of the game filtered through the media area (he started his day with an interview on the Dan Patrick Show).
There probably wasn’t a happier guy who missed the cut.
“It was one of the coolest things I’ll ever experience,” he said. “Mac made a joke. He was like, ‘by the way it’s not usually like this every week. You’re a bit of a rock star this week.’ I think I was hovering around 15-over all day and everybody is chanting my name and saying, ‘let’s go’ and bargaining for calls for the Islanders and the Rangers and some really, really funny things.
“‘Hey, Garrett, everybody hates the refs, but we’re cheering for you today.’ That was pretty good and that was pretty loud. Overall, unbelievable support and a super cool week.”
Rank, wearing pink pants, which took some guts in front of the New York fans (“My mom wanted me to wear them, he said) won over the crowd.
“Atta boy Garrett, you’re looking sharp,” said one fan along the eighth fairway.
“You didn’t even know his name until 10 minutes ago,” shot back his friend.
“I know, but he’s still my boy.”
Rank also has a new friend in Baddeley, who said he hadn’t really followed hockey until this year.
“I probably watched more hockey this year than I have in the last 18 years being in America because my little five-year-old boy Jeremiah got into hockey so we started to watch it. We went to our first game this year,” Baddeley said.
“I live in Phoenix so it was the Coyotes and the Wild. It was a good game, like 5-3, so it was high scoring. Garrett said when he comes in town, he’ll try and get us to a game if I’m in town which would be a lot of fun to see in his domain.”
“Aaron was a super nice guy,” Rank said. “We got along great for the last two days. He played really solid today. It was impressive to watch a guy not make any birdies and shoot a 72 at the U.S. Open. It was solid golf all day. He’s super kind. It was probably a bit of a distraction for him and Mac with all the people hooting and hollering and cat calling and stuff. I’m just glad he was able to play well and hopefully he can bring his son and we can hang out in the arena and he can get a first-hand look at what I do and what we go through.”
“It was fun. We had a really good time. He’s a really good guy and a very good player,” Baddeley said. “Today, he played really good. He was 3-over his last couple of holes to shoot 5-over so he played great today. Yesterday was just tough day period, for everybody. I had a really, really good time. It was fun listening to some of the stories with reffing and some of the comments from the crowd like ‘we usually hate refs, but not today,’ stuff like that. It was great.”
Rank said he also enjoyed having his brother, Kyle, on the bag for the week.
“We got along great the both days, but there are a couple of times when you’re trying to grind and he’s like ‘hit it in the fairway’ and I’m like “I’m trying to hit it in the fairway’ and he’s like ‘just aim for the middle of the green’ and I’m like, ‘dude, I’ve aimed for the middle of every green and it’s not going there.’ To spend all week with him and my mom and my sister and all family and friends probably 25 people here today walking with me the whole round. Super cool memories that will last a life time.
Taking It Back Home
Rank, who’s played every day since April 20, is looking forward to getting home to Elmira, ON, after a long hockey season on the road and a busy start to the golf season.
He will play in the Golf Ontario’s Mid-Amateur Championship starting Tuesday at the Burlington Golf and Country Club.
“I’ve kind of neglected the GAO for the last five years and so I’d like to give back to them a little bit. Quite honestly, just with all the travel during the year for hockey and travel over the last month it will be nice to spend a couple of weeks in my own bed,” he said.
“I can’t really call Burlington a home game, but it’s only 45 minutes away.”
Rank might have missed the cut at the U.S. Open by a wide margin, but he still considers the week a win.
“Everybody got kicked in the teeth yesterday. It was just a really hard golf course and the conditions didn’t make it any easier,” he said.
“Overall a great week, an unbelievable experience going forward. It’s something I’ll remember for the rest of my life and really can only take positives away from this week.”
Follow me on Twitter: @CJ_Stevenson