BENTON TOWNSHIP — Garrett Rank showed the kids how it’s done.
The 31-year-old National Hockey League referee defeated Daniel Wetterich 3 and 2 in the championship match of the Western Amateur on Saturday at Point O’ Woods Golf & Country Club.
“End of a dream week,” Rank said. “I worked really hard and played some great golf all week. Super thrilled with the outcome, and truly honored to be the champion of the Western Amateur.”
Rank is the second Canadian to win the Western Amateur, joining 1977 winner Jim Nelford. He’s the first foreign winner since Danny Lee in 2008, the last time Point O’ Woods hosted the event at the end of a 38-year run as the tournament’s home.
Rank is also the first mid-amateur (over 25) to take the title since Danny Green in 1997, and he believes his experience was a key factor as he took on a field filled with the nation’s top college golfers.
“I’ve been playing in this high-level stuff for seven, eight years,” Rank said. “I’ve got myself into some pretty cool situations deep into tournaments.
“Ultimately I think the mindset and being 31, being a little bit older helps.”
The championship match was back-and-forth early on. Rank went ahead for good on No. 7, making a birdie putt after Wetterich barely missed his.
Both players birdied No. 8, and Rank followed with another on the par-3 No. 9 to go 2-up.
“I think really the putt I rolled in on (No.) 8 helped,” Rank said. “He made birdie and I rolled it in on top of him. Then I hit probably one of the best shots of the week on (No.) 9. That was a pretty stout shot.”
Wetterich had opportunities early on the back nine. He birdied No. 10 to close the lead to one, but missed a par putt on No. 12 and a birdie putt on No. 13, each which would have won him the hole and evened up the match.
“I hit two really good putts there,” Wetterich said. “I just misread them. I played them a little too far outside, I overread them a little bit. That was tough, I really wanted to make those. If I would’ve made those, maybe something would’ve changed.”
Rank then birdied Nos. 14 and 15 to win the holes and pull away. Both players had short par putts on No. 16, and after Wetterich sank his, Rank did the same to clinch the match.
Rank carried his own bag, which he said was a tribute to his father Richard, who passed away in 2014.
He said Richard was “probably a 15 or 20 handicap,” but still enjoyed competing with his sons on the golf course.
“We’d go play golf and he’d be shooting a million,” Rank said. “He’d roll in like one 30-footer, and he’d say ‘If you guys could putt like me, you’d be on the PGA Tour.’ And I must say, I rolled in some special putts this week that were unbelievable and I honestly believe he was looking over my shoulder.”
Rank won his semifinal match in the morning 2 and 1 over David Laskin of Arizona. Wetterich defeated 18-year-old Ricky Castillo, who will play college golf for Florida, 4 and 2.
Wetterich hit an impressive shot on the par-5 No. 13 hole against Castillo, chipping out of a bunker for eagle.
“I knew if I just got it out on the green and got it rolling I could actually get it pretty close,” Wetterich said. “I just hit it in the right spot and it trickled in. I was just trying to get that thing close and it ended up making it.”
Contact: bsanders@TheHP.com, 429-1294, @HPBenSanders