Garrett Rank comes oh so close
Given what he's gone through, Mid-Am loss a small setback for the player known as Killer
Published on Thursday, Sep. 13, 2012 07:14PM EDT Last updated on Thursday, Sep. 13, 2012 08:13PM EDT
Garrett Rank didn’t win the U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship today at Conway Farms Golf Club in Lake Forest, Ill., but he came oh so close in losing one-down to Nathan Smith. Smith, now a four-time champion of the tournament for amateurs 25 years old and up, was a 1-up winner.
Rank, who lives in Elmira, Ont., was three holes down with six holes to play in the scheduled 36-hole final match. He won the next three holes to draw even, and then the golfers halved the16 hole with pars. They were all square, two holes to play for a national championship and, almost certainly, a spot in the 2013 Masters. Augusta National traditionally invites the winner of the U.S. Mid-Am.
Canadians were following updates via Twitter. Former tour pro and Canadian PGA Championship winner Ashley Chinner, now a successful businessman in the insurance industry - and he still has a lot of game - was tweeting furiously.
“All square with two to play,” Chinner tweeted after Rank made a short par putt on the 16 hole to stay even. “And Canada goes wild.”
Twitter was alive. I too was twitching and tweeting. Bob Weeks and Jason Logan of ScoreGolf were tweeting. Scott MacLeod of Flagstick Magazine was at it. Many of us were following Golf Channel reporter Steve Burkowski, live from Conway Farms.
The game was on.
Earlier in the day I’d spoken with Jack Pearse, the coach emeritus at the University of Waterloo, Rank’s alma mater. Pearse is 86, and he’s still very involved with the golf team and the program. He’s known Rank for nine years, and is a huge supporter of Canadian college golf - almost needless to say. He told me that many young Canadians are learning that they can get a great education at home and also play serious college golf.
Rank has played a lot of competitive golf this summer. He’s also been taking his regular turn as a referee in the Ontario Hockey League. Rank wouldn’t mind becoming an NHL referee, but figures that’s probably three or so years away. He’s scheduled to referee an OHL exhibition game Friday night in Waterloo, between the Kitchener Rangers and Barrie Colts.
Meanwhile, Rank has faced challenges greater than coming back from three down with six holes to play to win a national championship. He was diagnosed with testicular cancer a year and a half ago.
“It was caught right away,” Pearse told me. “But there’s been danger all along. Now Garrett says that if he makes a bad shot, that’s okay. He’ll say, ‘I’m playing a game I love.’ He was hard on himself before, and it manifested itself. We knew about all his potential, but he would make a stretch of double bogeys and turn a 68 into a 75.”
That was then, and this was now - in the finals of a national championship. He was playing a golfer who had won 31 matches and lost only four while playing the championship, and winning in 2003, 2009, and 2010. Smith was nine years older than Rank, and had much more experience in national championship golf. Rank, though, did win the individual title 2012 Canadian University/College Championship, last June at the Cordova Bay Golf Course in Victoria, B.C. He’s a member of Team Canada.
Rank wasn’t fazed by where his talent had taken him. Young Jack Pearse - yes, I know he’s 86, but he seemed so young as we spoke, and was so full of enthusiasm for university golf and its participant. Rank calls him Grumpy, for Grandpa; but grumpy he isn’t. Pearse calls Garrett Killer, because, well, garrote was a means of execution in Spain, by strangulation. Enough said.
Killer came to the par-three 17 at Conway Farms, but missed the green and left himself a tricky downhill chip. He ran that 30-feet by the hole. Smith had hit the green and made par. Garrett, aka Killer, missed his long par putt. One-down with one to play. The 18th at Conway Farms is a par-five.
Smith had a birdie putt to win, with Garrett also looking at a birdie putt. He missed. Rank conceded Smith his par tap-in. Now Rank had 15-feet for a birdie to send the match to extra holes, and, perhaps, to propel himself to the Masters next April.
Rank missed. The game was over.
Chinner weighed in, via Twitter, of course. “Congrats @garrettrank on a great showing. Canadian golf is proud of you.” He added, “You had all of Canada on the edge of our Twitter seats. You were awesome.”
“Tough loss, but great week,” ScoreGolf’s Logan tweeted.
I emailed Jack Pearse. He’s been around. He knows golf, its ups and downs.
“He is a treat to be around and a truly wonderful young man,” Grumpy replied. I have a call in to Rank and when he gets back to me I’ll ask what Grumpy, and the University of Waterloo, have meant to him. I think I know the answer.
The University of Waterloo is holding an alumni fund-raiser Saturday at the Cambridge Golf Club in Cambridge, Ont. Rank will be there. I’ve been invited, but I can’t make it.
Too bad. It would be fun, and enlightening, to hang for a while with Grumpy and Killer, the young man who came so close to winning a big national championship, and to making it to the Masters.
RELATED LINK: More blogs from Lorne Rubenstein
Lorne Rubenstein has written a golf column for The Globe and Mail since 1980. He has played golf since the early 1960s and was the Royal Canadian Golf Association’s first curator of its museum and library at the Glen Abbey Golf Club in Oakville, Ontario and the first editor of Score, Canada’s Golf Magazine, where he continues to write a column and features. He has won four first-place awards from the Golf Writers Association of America, one National Magazine Award in Canada, and, most recently, he won the award for the best feature in 2009 from the Golf Journalists Association of Canada. Lorne has written 12 books, including The Natural Golf Swing, with George Knudson (1988); Links: An Insider’s Tour Through the World of Golf (1990); The Swing, with Nick Price (1997); The Fundamentals of Hogan, with David Leadbetter (2000); A Season in Dornoch: Golf and Life in the Scottish Highlands (2001); Mike Weir: The Road to the Masters (2003); A Disorderly Compendium of Golf, with Jeff Neuman (2006); This Round’s on Me (2009); and the latest Moe & Me: Encounters with Moe Norman, Golf’s Mysterious Genius (2012). He is a member of the Ontario Golf Hall of Fame and the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame.
Lorne can be reached at email@example.com.
You can now follow him on Twitter @lornerubenstein