Garrett Rank will have a difficult decision down the road. Does he pursue a career as a professional golfer or as an NHL referee?
There is no doubt the 25-year-old Rank has the desire to chase down both livelihoods, and it will be interesting to see which path he walks - or skates - down in the next few years. For now, however, the decision can wait.
"I have the passion and drive to make the NHL as a referee and I have that same drive to make it as a professional golfer," Rank of Elmira, Ont., said.
For now, the plan is for Rank to continue to gain experience as a referee in the Ontario Hockey League, as well as junior B games in his area this winter. He also will continue to work on his golf game in the off-season. He hopes to have another banner summer in 2013 that will make the decision easy for him to enter a fall tour school, whether at the PGA Tour level or the Canadian Tour.
To fully appreciate the position Rank finds himself in you also should know that he is a cancer survivor. In January 2011, he was refereeing a game and felt pain in his lower body. The next day he went to see his doctor and Rank was diagnosed with testicular cancer.
He now finds himself cancer free and mentally strong, not only because of the battle waged against his medical condition, but because of the challenge he faces on the golf course and the ice.
"You need patience for both jobs," Rank said. "You have similar mindsets. In refereeing people don't always agree with you and your emotions become heightened. You can use that in golf, too. You want to keep a positive mindset on the course."
Masters still a dream
Rank certainly had a positive mindset earlier this month when he advanced all the way to the U.S. Mid-Amateur final, only to lose the 36-hole match 1 up to Pittsburgh's Nathan Smith. Despite the narrow defeat, Rank received tremendous support from the Canadian golf community, including messages from the legendary Marlene Stewart Streit and PGA Tour player Graham Delaet of Weyburn, Sask.
If Rank would have upset Smith, the Canadian golfer would have earned a spot in the 2013 Masters.
"It still stings a bit," Rank said. "In the spring watching the Masters it will probably still sting. But I have that satisfaction that I gave myself a chance to win."
He made good on his chance to win the Canadian University/College Golf championship in Victoria in the spring and then embarked on a hectic eight-tournament run in the summer that proved fruitful.
Rank is back on the ice these days. He refereed the Windsor Spitfire-Soo Greyhounds game in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., last Saturday and the Caledonia Corvairs-Waterloo Siskins contest in Waterloo on Sunday.
Honing golf skills
Rank honed his golf skill as a kid around the Elmira Golf and Country Club. He worked at the course and he and his older brother Kyle, a scratch golfer, would have legendary matches against one another.
"I always tease my parents that they used the golf course as my baby sitter," Garrett said. "They let me spend the whole summer there."
Rank graduated from the University of Waterloo with a degree in economics last spring. He played on both the hockey and golf teams at Waterloo, but after working with instructor Dave Smallwood, founder and director of Instruction at the Golf Performance Centre at nearby Whistle Bear Golf Club, Rank improved so much as a golfer that he quit hockey to focus on his swing.
But even though he put his hockey career in the rearview window, former NHL referee Lance Roberts persuaded Rank to consider life as an on-ice official.
"I've known Garrett for a while," Roberts said. "I watched him play junior B. I knew he refereed some minor hockey. I know his Dad. I also knew his Dad was a referee. There are two things with Garrett: he is a good athlete and a strong skater. He is a natural."
Roberts works for the NHL scouting and recruiting officials at the grass-roots level. He thought so highly of Rank that Roberts included him in Hockey Canada's Program of Excellence for officials.
There are many attributes Roberts likes about Rank as a referee.
"I like the way he handles himself out there," Roberts said. "He's a good communicator. He's not intimidated. The players have his respect, his authority out there.
"Personally, I believe he has what it takes to take the next step to the pro level."
Many have the same thought with Rank's golf ability. It will be interesting to see how this story plays out.
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