NHL referee and 21-year-old amateur near top of Canadian Open leaderboard
Garrett Rank was told Wednesday he’ll be refereeing full-time in the NHL. On Thursday he shot 3-under in the RBC Canadian Open, his summer part-time job.
In his group was a 21-year-old from Kimberley, BC, Jared du Toit. The Canadian national golf team member had the day of his golfing life, holing out an eagle on the 17th hole and making birdie on the 18th to vault up the leaderboard.
“It’s the first time I’ve had to sign autographs,” du Toit, who plays at Arizona State University, said following his round. “That was awesome. Definitely a lot of fun.”
Rank, 28, from Elmira, Ont., chipped in for eagle on the final hole to close at 3-under. It wasn’t that long ago that Rank, who repeated as the Canadian Mid-Amateur champion to get into the Canadian Open, was breaking up on-ice fights. Now he’s battling for birdies.
“I told my brother last night that there’s just tees and there’s pins on this golf course, and it’s not any different than [playing] Elmira,” Rank explained. “Maybe there’s more people watching and the conditions were just a little tougher, but I’ll just keep telling myself that and just stay patient.”
Rank officiated more than 30 NHL games last year, and says rumours began circulating about his golf abilities over the course of the season.
Occasionally a player would ask if perhaps they could tip it up the next time Rank was in town. Rank said he had words at a game this year with Los Angeles Kings’ star Drew Doughty. Doughty, who played in the pro-am at the Canadian Open this week, seemed surprised when he saw Rank at the tournament.
“So this is what you do, is it?” Doughty asked Rank.
Rank has been a bit of a novelty for a few days at Glen Abbey, despite having played in the Canadian Open last year where he missed the cut. He played a practice round with tour veterans—Erik Compton, Steve Wheatcroft, and Jason Gore—and said they were intrigued by his NHL gig.
“I was pretty nervous going into it and was pumped to play with them,” Rank said. “Then by the third or fourth hole they were like, ‘We’re pumped to play with you.’ A lot of war stories and a lot of hockey stories were shared throughout the round.”
One of the first professional tournaments, du Toit’s PGA Tour debut saw a couple of stunning shots on the final holes. He holed out a shot from the fairway bunker on 17 for an eagle, and followed that up with a 367-yard drive that led to a birdie on the closing hole that moved him to a tie for second on a breezy, hot and difficult day.
How does one relax after such a dramatic finish? A long sleep followed by a late tee time tomorrow.
“Just come out here and keep doing what I’m doing,” he said.
The wind made afternoon rounds at Glen Abbey exceptionally difficult, especially when coupled with the firm and fast conditions brought on by a month-long drought. Scores rose with the wind, leaving big-hitting Luke List’s 6-under 66 at the top of the leaderboard. Other big names, including Jason Day, Matt Kuchar, Dustin Johnson and Jimmy Walker were all lurking. Canadians David Hearn, Brad Fritsch, and Graham DeLaet all struggled in the high wind.
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