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story.lead_photo.caption Garrett Rank

The U.S. Golf Association received 9,049 entries for the U.S. Open this year. There was probably only one with a day job that involves professional ice hockey.

But Garrett Rank, 30, will tee it up at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club on Thursday, just a few weeks after concluding his third season as a referee in the National Hockey League. He qualified for the Open as an amateur by shooting 2-under par in the 36-hole sectional qualifier at Settindown Creek Course in Georgia on June 4.

"What a dream come true for me," Rank said Monday after arriving at Shinnecock Hills for practice ahead of the tournament. "I consider this, like, the pinnacle of my golf career this week."

That Rank can maintain any competitive golf career -- considering what else he is doing for eight months of the year -- is almost unfathomable.

How does he stay sharp? He plays on the road, often with rental equipment, because it is too hard to bring both his hockey and golf gear when he travels.

"I think our assigner knows I play golf," Rank said. "I probably go to Florida or Phoenix a few more times than some of the other guys on staff."

Rank, who was born in Ontario, played both collegiate golf and hockey at the University of Waterloo until he was diagnosed with testicular cancer in 2011 and needed to step back to have treatment.

He returned to golf in 2012 and earned a spot on Canada's national team. One of his teammates, Mackenzie Hughes, has remained a close friend.

"He's a part-time golfer, essentially, and he just qualified for a major championship," Hughes said. "I don't think ordinary people understand how hard that is to do. It's pretty remarkable."

Rank worked three games in the Stanley Cup playoffs this season, but once he saw that his name was off the schedule for the second round, he knew his offseason had begun.

"That kind of opened up my golf schedule," he said.

Asked whether he would rather referee in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final or finish in the top 10 at the U.S. Open, Rank said he would choose the golf -- for now.

"Save the Stanley Cup Final for 15 years down the road," he said.

Magic number

It might not seem possible, but Rob Gronkowski probably loves the number 69 even more than he did just a few days ago.

Gronkowski (left) gave owner and New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski a few reasons to like the number 69.

That's because the seemingly magic number helped the New England Patriots tight end win a nice chunk of change on his namesake horse, Gronkowski, at the Belmont Stakes.

The race took place Saturday (the date was 6/9). And the horse just happened to open with 69-1 odds to win.

All of that surely helped prompt the five-time Pro Bowl selection, who recently became a co-owner of the horse that shares his name, and several of his associates to place $69 bets on the four-legged Gronkowski.

It didn't look good for either creature named Gronk during the first third of the 1½-mile race, with the horse in last place and way behind everyone else in the field.

Gronkowski the horse found his turbo boost over the final mile and overtook everyone except Triple Crown winner Justify for a second-place finish.

John Breech of CBS Sports brilliantly equates the horse's comeback to rallying from a 28-3 deficit in the Super Bowl, which is what the Patriots did against the Atlanta Falcons in 2017.

Sports quiz

Who is the oldest winner of the U.S. Open golf tournament?

Sports answer

Hale Irwin, 1990, at 45 years, 15 days old

Sports on 06/13/2018

Print Headline: Hockey ref leaves the ice for U.S. Open


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