After the first round of the U.S. Open Thursday at Shinnecock Hills, Garrett Rank was tied for 148th in the 156-man field after a 13-over-par 83. But unlike some of golf’s major stars whose scores soared in the blustery conditions, Rank enjoyed the experience and found he could laugh at himself because, after all, he’s an amateur.
Rank has a night job as an NHL referee, so he was able to keep everything in perspective as a local qualifier for the U.S. Open. “For me, this isn’t my job,” Rank said with a smile. “It’s just cool to be out here. I obviously wanted to play better than I did today. But I’m in the U.S. Open, playing in a major championship. I saw some of those scoreboards with some big names shooting some big scores. It was just hard. It really was. You almost have to hit a perfect golf shot every time.”
For amateur golfers at home to get a sense of U.S. Open conditions, Rank said that when they miss a fairway, they would have to drop it in knee-high rough and try to slash it back to the short grass. Then they’d have to putt in howling winds on greens rolling 12 or 13 on the Stimpmeter.
Rank said he began to understand the demands of Shinnecock Hills on his first hole — the 415-yard, par-4 10th — when his approach out of the rough came up just short of the green, leaving him with a chip up a severe slope to an elevated green. “I hit a chip, and I think it’s perfect and it keeps rolling and rolling and rolls off the back of the green,” Rank said.
“It was a quick wake-up call. My short game was just a liability today. I didn’t chip good enough to remotely have a good score . . . I’d hit it in the fairway and I’d make bogey or double, and then I topped a drive, and I made par. It was just hard. I’m not embarrassed by an 83, but it’s not good. If you weren’t playing from the fairway, it was next to impossible.”
Because the wind blew harder than it did earlier in the week, Rank said he might as well have skipped the practice rounds. “The course is dramatically different from what it was during the practice days,” Rank said. “I hit a chip shot, and I’m telling myself, ‘This is going to be really fast.’ So, I played half the distance I think it’s going to go and it still goes 10 feet by and then it ends up 30 yards by because it rolls down the hill. It’s just hard.”
Rank gets to do it all over again Friday afternoon.