NHL Referee Garrett Rank took home the title – and the George R. Thorne Trophy – as the winner of the 117th Western Amateur Golf Tournament. Rank is the first Canadian to win the event since Vancouver’s Jim Nelford in 1977, and the first non-US born victor since New Zealand’s Danny Lee in 2008. The tourney, which began in 1899, was held in Point O’ Woods Golf & Country Club in Benton Harbor, Michigan.
Rank, 31, defeated Ohio’s Daniel Wetterich with a 3 and 2 victory in the final.
“I’ve been chasing a major amateur title for a long time and the dream finally came true today,” Rank told Golf Channel. “I’m super thrilled.”
❓ How does it feel to earn a place on the George R. Thorne Trophy beside Nicklaus, Crenshaw, Mickelson and Woods?
?? Hear it straight from The Champ. pic.twitter.com/FRHAtGde9M
— WGA Championships (@WGAChamps) August 3, 2019
“I’ve had a lot of close calls in big events,” Rank said. “To finally break through is huge. I’m a big believer in the more you put yourself under pressure you learn something every time. I relied on that.”
Previous winners of the Western Amateur include Tiger Woods (1994), Phil Mickelson (1991), Ben Crenshaw (1973), and Jack Nicklaus (1961).
“Those guys are the who’s who of golf and to put my name on there, it will never get erased,” said Rank.
He’s put together quite an impressive career on the links. Rank qualified for the 2018 US Open at Shinnecock, and claimed wins at the 2018 Investor’s Group Ontario Men’s Amateur and 2018 Ontario Men’s Mid-Amateur, along with consecutive trips to the semifinals at the US Amateur Four-Ball Championship.
“I know how important and cool this is in amateur golf,” Rank said. “It hasn’t sunk in yet, and I’m sure I’ll be even more proud when it does.”
Rank currently sits ranked 97th in the World Amateur Golf Ranking. He’s finished in the top-10 in his last four events, including the Western, the Porter Cup (fifth), the Golf Ontario Men’s Amateur (seventh), and the North and South Amateur Championship (ninth).
Up next for Rank is a return to the Canadian Mid-Amateur Championship from August 20-23; Rank won that event three years straight from 2014-2016, before missing the last two due to NHL Officials’ training camp. Camp gets underway on September 9, with the NHL season set to start on Wednesday, October 2.
Despite his off-season successes, Rank isn’t second-guessing his career on the ice.
“I have no doubt I could be a great pro and could do well in the game of golf,” said Rank. “But I love my job [as an NHL referee]. I have one of the coolest jobs in the world. I know how the ups and downs of golf work and have seen a lot of great players not make it. When you get to play in tournaments like this and have success, I don’t know why you would want to chase being a professional golfer.”
(Video courtesy Russ Cohen/Sportsology.com)