Garrett Rank can usually be seen zipping around the ice during NHL games. This week, however, he’ll be getting around on spikes instead of blades.
That’s because the 30-year-old NHL referee was able to qualify to play in the 2018 U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club after shooting a pair of 71s during last week’s sectional qualifier in Georgia. On his bag last week? Fellow NHL referee Dan O’Rourke. This week, he’ll have his older brother, Kyle Rank, as his caddie.
“What a dream come true for me,” he told ESPN. “And just playing in any USGA Championship is a huge honor. … I’ve got a real job, so I consider this the pinnacle of my golf career this week.”
His “real job” ended two months ago following the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. But, how did Rank, who’s on the ice far more than the golf course, qualify for golf’s second major of the year?
It turns out that as he was growing up in Canada, he balanced the two sports well. Of course, winters were reserved for hockey — both playing and officiating — and summers were for golf.
“I think the slap shot is a very similar move [to a golf swing]. If you watch my action, I kind of laterally slide through it a little bit,” he said. “I think the hand-eye coordination in playing hockey just bodes well to the game of golf.”
He earned both a golf scholarship and a hockey scholarship to the University of Waterloo. Then he played for the Golf Canada national amateur team.
He still laced up his skates, too, but in 2011, he was diagnosed with testicular cancer. After receiving successful treatment, his focus shifted more from playing hockey to officiating.
As he continued to compete on the golf course, (he came in second at the 2012 U.S. Mid-Amateur), he worked as a referee for various professional hockey leagues before getting a call up from the NHL three years ago.
With a busy hockey season schedule, Rank rarely gets out on the golf course.
“I probably didn’t play as much as I would have liked to this year. Any time I do go play, it’s with rental clubs or playing out of my buddy’s bag,” he admitted.
So, regardless of what happens this week, Rank is thrilled to live out a dream. As for his future in golf and hockey?
‘‘I got a question the other day about whether I would want to finish in the top 10 in the US Open or work Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final,’’ Rank told the Boston Globe, ‘‘and I answered with the top 10 at the US Open.
‘‘I said I’d save the Stanley Cup Final for 15 years down the road when my golf game wasn’t as strong.’’
What a fun ride for Rank so far.