BENTON TOWNSHIP — Most of the players at Point O’ Woods Golf & Country Club for this week’s Western Amateur hope to play on the PGA Tour one day.
Garrett Rank already has a job in professional sports.
Rank is a 31-year-old NHL referee and a cancer survivor, a unique background in a field made up largely of the nation’s top college players. So far it’s served him well, as he’ll take on David Laskin today at 8 a.m. in the match play semifinals.
“At the end of the day, whether I win or lose, I’m going to work Sept. 9 back on the ice,” Rank said. “I think it frees me up a little bit and kind of gives me a different perspective, a fresh outlook on the game.”
Rank is Canadian and attended the University of Waterloo in Ontario, where he initially played both hockey and golf. When he decided to focus on golf, he took up officiating hockey to stay involved with the sport, and began working his way up to the highest level.
“It’s honestly one of the coolest jobs in the world,” Rank said. “To have a seat right on the ice watching a hockey game, interacting with those guys and seeing the skill and the speed that they play the game with, it’s pretty incredible. I love my job.”
Rank wrapped up his NHL season on April 22 after working a first-round series in the Stanley Cup playoffs. He immediately headed to Florida, and has made golf the focus of his offseason.
“In the summertime, I try to play or practice every day,” Rank said. “I’m addicted to it, it’s in my blood. I’ve been playing every day since the middle of the April, so I can’t say that there’s any rust or anything like that.”
Rank has continued to have success even as a part-time golfer, and even qualified for the 2018 U.S. Open. Still, he wasn’t necessarily expecting to reach the final day at the Western Amateur
“This is pretty surreal,” Rank said. “I’m super thrilled to go this far. I know I have it in me to compete against these guys, and I’m just riding the wave of momentum right now.”
Rank was diagnosed with testicular cancer in 2011. He had surgery to remove it and was declared cancer-free that year, but the experience left a lasting mark on him.
“It definitely changes your life,” Rank said. “I say that it’s kind of a blessing in disguise for me. I was probably a little bit hot-headed and would get frustrated at times with my golf game and just with myself. Overcoming something like (cancer) and having to deal with something like that, it just puts it in perspective how precious life can be. I’m just fortunate for these opportunities to come and play.
“It was a tough battle. I wouldn’t force it on anybody, but I’m kind of glad I had to go through it.”
Contact: bsanders@TheHP.com, 429-1294, @HPBenSanders