A 2014 AJC file photo shows Gus Wagoner of Duluth, GA hitting from the sand on the 9th hole at Ansley Golf club.

Rink to links: In Roswell, NHL referee qualifies for 2018 U.S. Open

Happy Gilmore isn’t the only guy with a hockey background who can swing a golf club.

Garrett Rank isn’t refereeing the NHL Final between the Washington Capitals and Vegas Golden Knights this week, but the hockey referee from Canada is keeping busy.

Rank, 30, traded in his skates for spikes this week and qualified for the 2018 U.S. Open at Shinnecock. The NHL ref finished two strokes under par on Monday at the Ansley Golf Club in Roswell.

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A fellow NHL referee, Daniel O’Rourke, served as his caddy. Rank shot back-to-back scores of 71, tying him at the top of the leaderboard with Michael Hebert, a former Auburn University golfer and Web.com Tour player. Texas native Roberto Castro also qualified, finishing one stroke under par in Roswell.

Rank notched two eagles in his first eight holes, and then came away with four birdies in the second round.

This year, Rank has officiated 73 NHL games in the regular season and three more in the postseason. He began refereeing NHL games in 2015.

Rank has played in 15 United States Golf Associations Championships, but had never qualified for a U.S. Open.

A native of Elmira, Ontario, Sports Illustrated and USA Today noted that Rank is also a survivor of testicular cancer.

“I’m just really proud of all the hard work and the dedication and time you put into the game. There will be a lot of really proud people back in Elmira,” Rank told USA Today. “I just can’t thank people at home enough. My dad passed away a few years ago, and he’d be really jazzed to be there.”

The U.S. Open begins on June 14 at Shinnecock Hills Golf Course in New York.

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