Success at Oakland Hills part of nice week for Rank

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News
Fred Funk, left, came out to support his son Taylor during the 23-for-8 playoff Aug. 17, 2015 at the U.S. Amateur at  Oakland Hills Country Club.

It’s been a pretty good couple of weeks for Garrett Rank, and advancing to the round of 32 at the U.S. Amateur is just one of the reasons.

The native of Elmira, Ontario, accomplished that last feat on Wednesday on the South Course at Oakland Hills Country Club by beating Benjamin Griffin, 1-up. It’s the fifth time the 28-year old has played in the U.S. Amateur and he’s hoping to advance past the round of 32 for the first time.

If he doesn’t, however, it’s probably not going to bother Rank too much. After all, he made the cut a few weeks ago at the RBC Canadian Open, the same week he found out he would be a full-time NHL referee this season.

“I signed a full-time NHL contract to work 73 games, so I’m looking forward to that,” Rank said after the round. “It was a good week. I made the cut on the PGA Tour and signed a full-time NHL contract, so dream week for me.”

He’s trying to add some icing to a pretty impressive run this week at Oakland Hills. The former college hockey player who took to golf after testicular cancer forced him to leave the ice back in 2011 has been working hard on his game, something that is tough in the winter.

Rank has worked in the Ontario Hockey League and the American Hockey League while also working some NHL games last season. Refereeing is his No. 1 priority, but he does what he can to keep his golf game sharp.

“I try and stay in shape, and mentally I think it’s good to get away from the game for a little bit during the offseason,” said Rank, the runner-up at the 2012 U.S. Mid-Amateur. “But I’d be lying if I didn’t tell you I played every day for the last three months. I feel confident with my game right now, and I’m just trying to keep it sharp in the wintertime.”

Rank won’t put a lot pressure on himself moving forward. He plays Denver’s Kyler Dunkle in the next round, but before he focused on that match, there was time to relax by the pool and maybe eat some Chipotle, he said.

He believes he’s learned from his past appearances at the U.S. Amateur and won’t sweat the ups and downs that come on the course. If he can do that, he could turn a nice couple of weeks into one heck of a summer with a major championship.

“That wouldn’t suck,” he said. “It would be really cool.”

UM's Carlson reaches U.S. Amateur round of 32

23 goes to eight

While the first round of match play was beginning Wednesday, there was still a large group of players trying to grab the final eight of 64 spots.

Twenty-three players began a playoff at 8 a.m. on the North Course to round out the match-play field, and seven holes later, things had been settled. The playoff ended two holes short of the longest in U.S. Amateur history, which took place in 1993 at Champions Club in Houston when 22 players took part in a nine-hole playoff. Wednesday’s proceedings lasted four hours and five minutes.

Scott Harvey grabbed the final spot with a par on the 440-yard 17th hole, eliminating Stewart Hagestad and Ian Holt. Franklin Huang, William Gordon and Blair Hamilton all birdied No. 10 — the first playoff hole — to advance while four more birdied No. 11, including Matthew Wolf, Sahith Theegale, David Boote and Bradly Moore.

Some notable names missed out on match play, including Maverick McNealy, the No. 1-ranked amateur in the world. He reached the quarterfinals last year but he was eliminated from the playoff after the fifth hole after lipping out a birdie putt on the second playoff hole that would have sent him to match play.

Also eliminated were Taylor Funk and 2015 USGA Mid-Amateur champion Sammy Schmitz. Funk is the son of PGA veteran Fred Funk. He shot 66 in the opening round of stroke play on Monday but plummeted to a 76 on Tuesday, leaving him in the playoff.

Chip shots

Play was suspended at 3:43 p.m. on Wednesday when heavy storms moved through the area. Play resumed at 5:40.

… Hamilton advanced out of the playoff and made the most of his chance, carding a hole-in-one on No. 9 as he defeated sixth-seeded John Oda, 4 and 2.