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June 11, 2018
Southampton, New York
THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon. My name is Beth Major. I'm a member of the USGA communications staff.
On behalf of the USGA, it's my honor to welcome you all to the Shinnecock Hills Golf Club for the 2018 U.S. Open championship. We're thrilled to have you all here for what's going to be a very special week.
I'm really thrilled to introduce our first guest of the week. Garrett Rank is a 30-year-old amateur from Ontario, Canada. He earned co-medalist honors at his sectional qualifier in Georgia last week to earn a spot in his first U.S. Open.
Garrett is no stranger to USGA championships, though. He is the runner-up from the 2012 U.S. Mid-Amateur and a two-time semifinalist at the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball.
Garrett, can you talk about qualifying for the U.S. Open and what the last week has been like?
GARRETT RANK: What a dream come true for me. I've played a lot of USGA events in the past. Like you touched on, in 2012, it was -- I wouldn't call it a disappointment, but I definitely thought about the Masters a few times post mid-am. And just going and playing in any USGA Championship is a huge honor. And gaining the experience in the ams and the am pub links and then the mid-am that I've played and only be valuable this week.
I've got a real job, so I consider this like the pinnacle of my golf career this week. I'm going to go out there and, obviously, I have internal expectations on how I want to play and what I want to do.
But at the end of the day, this is just a celebration for me and my family and friends.
Q. Speaking of your regular job, as I mentioned, Garrett hails from Canada, where you're three-time Canadian Mid-Amateur champion, represented your home country in the World Amateur teams in 2016 but is also a full-time NHL referee.
You're used to being on a fairly high profile stage. Can you talk about that experience and what you bring from that to this week?
GARRETT RANK: Yeah. Growing up in Canada, you're kind of born with a pair of skates on your feet so hockey is probably our number one sport. But golf is getting there.
I've had a great opportunity with Golf Canada for three years on their Canadian Men's National Team and have represented them in many international competitions. Obviously, I owe a huge debt to them. I wouldn't be here without the guidance and support that their staff has given me.
Then I just worked really hard at reffing. I enjoyed the game of hockey. When I battled cancer in 2011, it kind of put an end to my hockey career. Reffing was a way to stay involved in the game.
I think I kind of forced the NHL's hand with my golf abilities. I think they looked at me and said, hey, we've got a chance to -- we like this kid. We think he's good, but there's a chance that he's going to try and go play golf for a living.
So I think I got into the NHL a few years earlier than I expected. And at the time, I was made a promise to myself that whatever panned out first, whether it be reffing or golf, then that's what I was going to choose to do as my career.
THE MODERATOR: And, wonderfully, you're able to do both, which is really terrific.
GARRETT RANK: Thank you.
THE MODERATOR: We'll open it up to questions.
Q. Have you played any golf with any of the Rangers or Islanders here? Are you now persona nongrata?
GARRETT RANK: Yeah, I don't know if anyone really wants to play me anymore now that the secret's out. I did play a tournament with Travis Hamonic. He's in Calgary now, but he was on the Islanders. I played kind of a charity event in his group in Winnipeg a couple years ago and ended up shooting 58 that day.
He knew how good I was, and he uninvited me back to the tournament one day on the ice when I made a bad call and he wasn't happy with me. He revoked my invitation.
But another guy, Justin Williams, we've talked golf on the course. He's a big golf player, and there's a lot of guys that love coming over and getting their mind away from hockey. They sometimes are like, yeah, Coach told me to come over here and ask you about this, but I don't really want to talk about that. I want to talk about golf.
So it kind of provides kind of a cushion or layer of personality and interaction between me and the players on the ice.
Q. What was your reaction when you found out your playing partners?
GARRETT RANK: That was great for me. I couldn't have got a better group, I don't think. I attended Mackenzie's wedding. We're great friends. We played on the Canadian national team for three years together. So very comfortable. It will be kind of nice for me, as I'm sure I'll be really anxious and nervous. And just to have that familiar face beside me in battle is huge.
And then it's cool, like Aaron Baddeley growing up was a huge name and still is a big name in golf. Secretly, it's cool. Like I saw all the guys on the range today, and I'm just here as kind of like a little fan boy. So it's cool to see those guys and be able to play with them as well.
Q. Do you have time to play golf when you travel to the various NHL cities for work? And if so, then does that mean you have some favorite places to get assigned, and can you even ask for those?
GARRETT RANK: You can't request any assignments. At least I can't. I'm sure some guys do, but I haven't been around long enough to ask for particular assignments.
I think our assigner knows I play golf on the road so I probably go to Florida or Phoenix a few more times than some of the other guys on our staff.
I'd be lying if I told you I didn't play. I try and play as much as I can. I probably didn't play as much as I would have liked to this year. It's tough to travel with the hockey equipment and then bring your golf bag in tow. So any time I do go play, it's with rental clubs or playing out of my buddy's bag.
I've got a couple friends, Gavin Hall and Dominick Bozzelli, that live in Jupiter, Florida. So I went and played Medalist with them a few times and played out of Dom's bag. And I played with a billet host in Phoenix at Whisper Rock this year.
I get invited to play a lot of really cool places. That's the great thing about the amateur golf game is the network and opportunities that are provided through that. And now through this week, qualifying for this, it kind of creates a bigger story, and I'm sure there will be a ton of opportunities in every city I go to next year to play a lot of golf.
THE MODERATOR: Garrett, you mentioned coming close to qualifying for the Masters, thanks to the mid-am back in 2012. Have you been to Augusta National as a fan?
GARRETT RANK: I have not been to Augusta National. I told myself I wasn't going to go until I played. That clock's kind of ticking and probably going to run out. So I'd like to go probably sometime soon. I'll definitely go before I turn 40 and try and get tickets and attend the Masters.
It's still a huge goal of mine to have success at the USGA level, whether at the mid-am or the amateur, and try and qualify that way. I'm not sure I can play well enough or if there's any criteria I can do, other than win, that gets me an invite there. But it would be cool to still play. That's on my list, and I'd love to participate in that event.
Q. Garrett, congratulations.
GARRETT RANK: Thank you.
Q. I was wondering, why is there such a strong connection between hockey and golf and guys that make that transition from one sport to the next very successfully?
GARRETT RANK: I think the seasons have to do with it. In Canada, it's two distinct seasons. Where I grew up, there wasn't really a lot of soccer, baseball. Me and my buddies played golf in the summer and hockey in the wintertime.
I think the slap shot is a very similar move. If you watch my action, I kind of laterally slide through it a little bit. I think the hand-eye coordination in playing hockey, I think it just bodes well to the game of golf.
Q. Who's your golf idol? And who would be your idol as a referee?
GARRETT RANK: Well, that's a great question. I look up to a few guys on our staff right now. Wes McCauley, being one of them, has had a lot of success and is a good referee.
Paul Devorski, Bill McCreary, Don Koharski, Stephen Walkom, all those guys were guys I looked up to and had a ton of respect for when I was trying to make a name and trying to make my way in officiating.
As a golfer, I grew up in the Tiger Woods era, and Tiger was like a God to all of us. He created the game to what it is today. You know, I really wouldn't say I would consider him my idol. But then I would say I get my motivation from all the guys I played amateur golf against, you know, the Jordan Spieths, the Justin Thomases, the Rickie Fowlers.
And then I look even at guys like Scott Harvey and Stu Hagestad, fellow mid-ams that have played in all these events. And I play against those guys, and I think why can't that be me? I've put in enough time and dedication and effort into this game that, you know, I deserve and have worked hard enough and think I can compete with those guys.
So, yeah, it's a tight-knit crew, and I use those guys as motivation and try and be the best that I can be.
Q. What sort of reaction have you had from your NHL colleagues since you qualified here, and how many people do you have with you here this week?
GARRETT RANK: So far, my brother and mom arrived last night, along with my swing coach, Dave Smallwood.
The reaction from the hockey community has been huge. I think every official on our staff sent me a text and congratulated me and said they'd be following along and are really proud of me.
I even had a few phone calls, like asking if it was like -- if it was me, like if that was the same Garrett Rank. I'm like, I don't know of too many other people with the same name, but, yeah, that's me. I'm going to the U.S. Open. So that was really cool.
Just leaving the course in Georgia on Monday, I had over 100 texts. And at night, I had 238. So I tried to get through them all the next morning, and whether it was a simple emoji or a thank you.
So I got it to zero going out on the course on Tuesday for a sponsor tournament at the Dogwood Invitational. By the time I got off the course, I had 77 more.
Family and friends back home have been a huge supporting staff, and I can't thank them enough. It's really cool to represent my small town of Elmira, and everyone there is extremely proud of me as well.
Q. So you played in the Dogwood last week. I got two questions. How did that help you prepare for this week? And then also three mid-ams in the field, two through qualifying. What does that say about the strength of the mid-am game?
GARRETT RANK: I played the Dogwood last week in Atlanta at Druid Hills. Great golf course. Kind of on the short end, a lot of birdie opportunities. Played really well, leaving there with a lot of confidence. I made 20 birdies over the week. I just made too many bogeys. I had a couple three-putts each day and then just didn't get a couple up and down.
Can't say enough about the course there and the way we were treated. The green, I think they secretly sped up the greens just for me. Everybody there was so excited to have me there. I'd made a promise to them that if I qualified -- because I got in the tournament late because I was going to Georgia to play in the sectional -- that I would stay and play. Even though I wasn't in the leading groups, I had a ton of people following me and a ton of support from the guys at the club there.
And the mid-am game right now, you know, there's a lot of great players. We have Stu and Matt playing this week. You got Nathan Smith and Todd White, who have had a ton of success in USGA Championships and at the Walker Cup. I got to speak to my partner, Patrick Christovich, in the U.S. Four-Ball, and Scott Harvey and Todd Mitchell.
Those guys -- and I see it every day when I go and play in those events with them. Those guys are good enough to compete out here as well. The level of golf that even guys, for example, that you've never heard of that just play at their club every day, I played with two guys the first two rounds at the Dogwood the last two days, and they beat the socks off me. And I'm like, why don't you play any tournaments? He's like, I have a job, and I just love playing golf and competing.
So there's a ton of guys at every club around the world that are good enough to be in my position this week, and I'm just fortunate that it's me and that I have the opportunity to be out here and competing.
Q. I've got kind of a two-parter. First, I wondered, in your dream foursome, would it include golfers or hockey players or what? Or a combination of both?
GARRETT RANK: I'd probably go with a combination of both. I'd probably take Wayne Gretzky, Tiger Woods, and then my dad.
Q. That's not bad. I also was curious at what age you dealt with the cancer. And at that point, were you a prospect? I mean, was the NHL a possibility for you?
GARRETT RANK: I don't know if the NHL was a possibility for me. I wasn't drafted, but I had a lot of really good skills. I was playing college hockey at the University of Waterloo and felt in great shape, like nothing was wrong. I think cancer for me was kind of a blessing in disguise. It gave me a way better approach to hockey and golf and kind of changed my attitude that, hey, maybe that bad shot isn't really that bad or, hey, maybe this missed call really isn't that bad at the end of the day.
I wouldn't say I'm happy that I dealt with it, but kind of a blessing in disguise for me and probably paved the pathway to where I am today, just in terms of being a lot mentally stronger and having a way better mental approach to this side of sports.
Q. A hypothetical for you. If you had gotten a finals assignment, what would you have done with it coinciding with the regional qualifying?
GARRETT RANK: I mean, because of my contract, I probably would have had to go and work a game. But I knew that once I didn't get any assignments in the second round that I was done for the year. So that kind of opened up my golf schedule and allowed me to play in the Monday qualifier.
I got a question the other day about whether I would want to finish in the top ten in the U.S. Open or work Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals, and I answered with the top ten at the U.S. Open. And I said I'd save the Stanley Cup Finals for 15 years down the road when my golf game wasn't as strong.
Q. Is it a coincidence that you play a sport where you call mistakes or penalties on yourself? Is that in some way helpful in becoming a referee? Is there some correlation?
GARRETT RANK: I would say really the only correlation for me is that I deal with so much abuse and get heckled so much that, when I actually do deal with the officials in golf, I find myself giving them like a hard time and asking them a lot of questions to see if they know the rules.
It's kind of funny, and I probably shouldn't do it, but I just feel like I take so much abuse on the ice that when I like deal with the officials, I'm going to -- I'm not mean to them, but I'm going to ask them questions and put them in a tough spot just to return the favor a little bit.
Q. Quick question as to how do you make the switch in your mind going from such a high like speed sport with hockey to something slower paced and more patience with golf?
GARRETT RANK: I mean, if you've ever seen any referee skate out there, I don't know how really fast we're going. The players are moving fast, but we're fairly stationary, moving in a small area.
The game is getting so fast now that it's getting a lot harder. And with the use of video replay, the critiquing on our calls that we get to see it in real time, one time in real speed, and the slow motion replays just make our job a lot harder. We'd love to referee with replay, but it's just not the way that it is.
I think there's some similarities between reffing and golf. You have to deal with the pressure of making a call and deal with the pressure -- or I guess the pressure of making a wrong call, then you deal with the pressure of making a bad shot in golf.
And you have to be really decisive as well, decisive in the decisions you make about what shot you want to hit, and then obviously you have to make a decision in about a split second if you're going to call a penalty or not.
Q. Karen alluded to having to make decisions between officiating and golf. Can you tell them about the time in the '16 Four-Ball where you actually made it all work and you went and did the NHL game and how you handled your laundry the next day too?
GARRETT RANK: Yeah, so funny story. I probably almost lost my job, but it's all good. We're here today.
I was playing the Four-Ball at Winged Foot, and Patrick and I decided to play, and we couldn't play the inaugural one at the Olympic Club because I was reffing, and he was having -- him and his wife were having a child.
So I said, there's two teams left that are fighting in the Eastern Conference. If one of the teams wins, we can go play. If the other team wins, we've got no shot. It's too far away.
So I got an early tee time in the first round. We went out and shot 66. And then I drove 3 1/2 hours to Hershey, took a nap in the locker room, drove back. We had an afternoon tee time the next day, and my reffing gear was still wet, and I needed to dry it out for the game the following weekend so I aired it out underneath my car in the parking lot of the Winged Foot golf club.
THE MODERATOR: Garrett, thank you so much for joining us today. We congratulate you on earning a place here in the 2018 U.S. Open field, and we wish you well throughout the week. Pleasure to have you with us.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports