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Bob Weeks

TSN Senior Reporter

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There aren’t many people who would prefer being holed up in a hotel for two months to playing at Bandon Dunes, but if he had his choice, Garrett Rank would choose the former.

Still, playing in the U.S. Amateur at one of the world’s most highly regarded golf destinations isn’t all that bad.

Rank, who works as a referee in the NHL, wasn’t picked to be one of the officials to work the postseason series playing out in Toronto and Edmonton. There were 10 refs chosen for each city who are all living inside the bubble created by the league to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“I was disappointed not to go back [to work],” said Rank. “That’s my job and that’s what I’d like to be doing. It’s tough not to get picked but it does free me up to play golf.”

Instead of calling penalties, the Elmira, Ont., was calling tournament organizers, trying to get into some of the elite amateur tournaments.

Playing in these events is something he does most summers when the hockey season is over, but this year he was uncertain of his schedule. That meant some last-minute planning, including whether he would be allowed to enter the United States.

“I kind of had my anxieties about crossing the border and what things would be like in the U.S.,” he said. “But I reached out to Corey [Conners] and Taylor [Pendrith] and they gave me their advice. I haven’t been to any downtowns and have been wearing a mask.”

Rank, 32, plays against college-aged players in most of the major events – many of whom go on to professional careers.  He’s one of the old guard when it comes to fields in these tournaments, but he’s enjoyed enough success to know he is still competitive. Last year, he captured the Western Amateur, a 118-year-old tournament one of golf’s most prestigious titles.

Rank knows that time is running out on his amateur career and that was another reason why he elected to head south and tee it up.

“I didn’t want to lose another year of my prime,” Rank stated. “I’ve probably got two, three or four more years where I can be competitive against these young guys.”

He started off playing the Sunnehanna Amateur in Johnstown, Pa., where he missed the 54-hole cut. He then ventured to the Western Amateur in Carmel, Ind. He failed to advance to the match-play portion of the event.

Rank admitted his play at those tournaments wasn’t up to his high standards, something he chalked up to competitive rust.

This week he’s in Bandon, Ore., for the U.S. Amateur, where he hopes to improve on his play. The event is being held on two of the six courses at the facility, Bandon Dunes and Bandon Trails.

This year’s national championship, one of the few still being run by the United States Golf Association, has a few wrinkles to it owing to the pandemic. There was no qualifying for the championship. Instead, the USGA went to an all-exempt field, picking a number of streams through which players were awarded spots in the tournament. Rank earned his based on his place in the World Amateur Golf Rankings, where he sits 37th.

For Rank, competing at the highest level on some gorgeous courses will be a pretty good substitute to working the NHL playoffs.

Other Canadians in the field are Noah Steele of Kingston, Ont., Matthew Anderson of Mississauga, Ont., and Hamilton, Ont.’s Johnny Travale. The golfers have two rounds of stroke play followed by six rounds of match play.

TSN will broadcast the match-play portion, starting with the round of 64 on Wednesday and on to the 36-hole final on Sunday.