NHL referee Garrett Rank tees off on the first hole. He was in the same group as Tony Romo. Wednesday was the first day of play in the Dogwood Invitational at the Druid Hills Golf Club. Bob Andres / bandres@ajc.com
Photo: Bob Andres/bandres@ajc.com
Photo: Bob Andres/bandres@ajc.com

NHL referee finds Dogwood Invitational to his liking

A lot has changed for Garrett Rank in the year since he last competed at the Dogwood Invitational. 

In 2018, Rank, 31, participated in the tournament at Druid Hills Golf Club a week before heading to Shinnecock for the U.S. Open. This year, the native of Elmira, Ontario, comes to Dogwood on the heels of nearly qualifying for a second trip to the Open, missing an opportunity to qualify through sudden-death action by two strokes.

Rank, who works full-time as an NHL referee, finished the first round Wednesday tied for third place, shooting a 4-under-par 68. 

The other difference – he was in a pairing with former Dallas Cowboys quarterback and current CBS NFL color analyst Tony Romo. The two previously played together at the 2017 Western Amateur in Skokie, Michigan. 

“He’s good,” Romo said of Rank. “You can usually just follow him around the course.” 

Rank acknowledged his mindset and approach to this tournament is much different than it was a year ago. In 2018, he was more relaxed, hoping to see where his game stood heading into the big week ahead. This year, however, he comes to Dogwood believing he has a chance to win. 

His approach to Wednesday was simple, shoot 2 under every nine holes he plays. His score indicated as much, but not without a few bumps along the way. 

He bogeyed on hole 16 after his shot broke and ended up trickling into the water. He marched to 17 with the bad performance still on the mind, and bogeyed again. He salvaged the rest of the back nine by birdieing on 18. 

“That’s where I have to get better mentally,” Rank said of his thoughts on 16 and 17. “(Although) I was happy with the birdie on 18. … It always makes lunch taste a little bit better.”

Outside of the Dogwood, however, not much has changed for Rank. He still officiates NHL games full time, and still holds the title of cancer survivor, overcoming a diagnosis of testicular cancer in 2011. 

Despite the change in mindset, approach and who he’s playing with, Rank’s future plans with golf are still the same. He said he played eight rounds during the NHL season, and his transition from the ice to the grass is still as seamless as has it been his entire life. 

He acknowledges he gets bored at home during the summer, so golf helps. He likes coming to the Druid Hills Golf Club to play in the Dogwood, and calls it the “best event you can play this week.” 

“I like coming down here. The weather is a lot nicer than it is at home,” Rank said. 

For the rest of the summer, Rank plans to play in the Northeast Amateur Golf Tournament in East Providence, Rhode Island, the North and South Men’s Amateur Championship in Pinehurst, North Carolina, and the 2019 U.S. Amateur Championship, among others. 

“So, it will be a busy summer again,” Rank said. “I kind of have the natural ability to play golf, so I just like competing.”

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