Tuesday, March, 18, 2014 – 2:02:33 PM
By Brian Totzke, The Fifth Quarter
Garrett Rank is quite aware of the fact that in life there are many things beyond one’s control.
And after meeting him for the first time recently, I soon realized that the ability of this multi-talented 26 year-old from Elmira to both fully understand and accept that fact goes a long way to explaining his current success.
That success centres around two very different sporting endeavours: playing golf and refereeing hockey. Rank is currently operating at an elite level for each one.
Rank’s golf resume is extensive and includes winning the prestigious Toronto Star Amateur in 2011, leading the Waterloo Warriors golf team to a national championship in 2012 and medaling at the USGA Public Links Championship in 2013.
He’s been a member of Team Canada for three years and maybe most impressive, was runner-up at the 2012 USGA Mid-Amateur. Winning that event would have earned Rank an invitation to Augusta and the Masters tournament, every golfer’s dream. Unfortunately he was edged out by Nathan Smith of Pittsburgh, the event’s only four-time champion.
As a hockey official, Rank’s career path isn’t any less impressive.
In addition to refereeing in the OHL and OHA this year, Rank was selected to headman the gold-medal game at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge in Nova Scotia in early January.
More recently, he received a professional visa from the NHL to work some games in the American Hockey League this month and possibly next.
It’s obvious that Rank is equally passionate about each pursuit so I asked him what he thinks the two have in common.
“Both have aspects you can and can’t control.” he replied. “The biggest similarity is that they each present times when your emotions try and take over and it is good practice trying to maintain composure and your patience.”
When it comes to maintaining composure under emotionally challenging circumstances, Rank has certainly had his share of real-life experience.
While refereeing in January 2011, Rank experienced some inexplicable pain and fortunately wasted no time getting to a doctor. He soon found out that he had testicular cancer. He underwent surgery and his health nowadays is just fine but the ordeal brought him some new-found perspective.
“As a cancer survivor, having a fan yelling at you about a call or making bogey on your last hole doesn’t bother you quite as much as it once did.”
Rank’s world was unexpectedly shaken again this January when his father Richard, a beloved fixture in the Elmira community, passed away suddenly while Garrett was refereeing at the World U17 tournament out east.
“My father passed away the day before the gold-medal game. There was some brief discussion with my family about whether to do the game or not but ultimately, I knew deep down that it’s what he would have wanted me to do.
“I skated the game in his memory. The fact that he guided me successfully through that game makes it my most meaningful one.”
In addition to his father, Rank feels fortunate to have had a number of significant mentors in his life including Lance Roberts as a hockey official and Dave Hollinger who, along with the late Jack Pearse, coached Garrett at UW.
Hollinger doesn’t seem the least bit surprised that Rank has been able to excel in both fields.
“With Garrett, it’s all about priorities and setting goals. And realizing that if you want something bad enough, you’ll find a way.”
Dave Smallwood, Director of Instruction at Whistle Bear’s Golf Performance Center in Cambridge, is Rank’s current coach and sees (pardon the pun) nothing but wide-open fairway in his future.
“Garrett is a special individual who has many opportunities. He has an economics degree, is a sought-after referee, and has battled and defeated cancer. It allows him to attack a professional career in golf from a whole different perspective. Garrett will be on the PGA Tour someday and he will make us all proud.”
Whether it’s the PGA, the NHL or the TSX for that matter, Garrett Rank knows all too well that the road ahead will always have some unexpected twists and turns.
But just as his father would have wanted, he’ll keep calm and carry on.
Brian Totzke is on Twitter: @kitwatguy