Garrett Rank is the 2013 USGA Public Links Medalist -- USGA Photo
The Round of 64 is ongoing Wednesday at Laurel Hill Golf Club. CLICK HERE FOR MATCH PLAY RESULTSLORTON, Va. (July 16, 2013) -- In temperatures that soared into the upper 90s but felt close to 115 degrees, Canadian Garrett Rank kept his cool and flirted with re-writing the record books at steamy Laurel Hill Golf Club.
Rank, 25, carded a 3-under 67 on Tuesday for a 36-hole total of 8-under 132 to earn medalist honors during the stroke play portion of the 2013 U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship.
Ian Davis, playing in his first USGA championship, was two strokes back at 134, while Eric Sugimoto followed his record-tying, first-round 63 with a 2-over 72 and finished three strokes behind at 135.
Rank was even par for his round through five holes when, for the second straight day, he birdied holes 6, 8 and 9. A birdie at the 182-yard 14th, offset by a bogey at the long par-4 17th, brought Rank to the final hole needing a birdie to match the mark set by Danny Green at the 2004 APL at Rush Creek G.C. in Maple Grove, Minn.
“If I knew that, I wouldn’t have laid up on 18,” joked Rank, who faced a 226-yard approach over water on the par-5 closing hole. “I was more worried about a Tin Cup moment.”
Rank, who works as a professional referee for the Ontario Hockey League in the winter, has dedicated himself full-time to golf this summer. In fact, he went to the practice range immediately after his round Tuesday despite playing near-flawless golf over the first two days.
“I’m treating this as my full-time job,” said Rank. “I made some good swings at the end of the round and was trying to cement those for the next couple of days.”
As much as his focus is on golf, Rank is also overcoming a serious health concern. In the winter of 2011, he had successful surgery for testicular cancer that gave him a scare, but also put things in perspective.
“As a young kid at 22 years old, you never want to hear ‘cancer,’ ” said Rank, “but it was really a blessing in disguise. I started to realize, even if I made a bogey or bad swing, things could be a lot worse.”
Rank finished runner-up at last year’s U.S. Mid-Amateur and has been climbing the ladder of the World Amateur Golf Rankings since. This summer, he finished second at the Ontario Amateur and has top-20 finishes at the Northeast Amateur and the Sahalee Players Championship.
“I’m coming in playing very well and this only gives me more confidence,” said Rank. “Coming to a USGA championship and finishing as medalist – that’s huge.”
Davis, 21, of Edmond, Okla., birdied all three par 5s, including an up-and-down from just over the green on the ninth, his final hole of the day.
“I was trying to come in under par today and with that birdie on [No. 9], I was able to do it,” said Davis, who also advanced through sectional qualifying on July 8 for next month’s U.S. Amateur, which will be held at The Country Club in Brookline, Mass. “I actually felt like I hit the ball a little better today, but couldn’t get a few putts to drop. Overall, I’m very happy with how I’m playing.”
Davis, 21, also had an excellent junior season at Oklahoma State. He won the Royal Oaks Intercollegiate in Dallas in October 2012 and finished eighth in the NCAA Division I Championship. His assistant coach, Brian Guetz, is his caddie this week and two of his teammates, Talor Gooch (68-69—137) and Jordan Niebrugge (71-67—138) also qualified for match play.
Sugimoto failed to sustain the momentum from his opening-round 63. With the 36-hole stroke-play record within grasp at the start of Tuesday’s round, the 19-year-old from San Diego bogeyed three consecutive holes starting at No. 4. He birdied the short par-4 10th for the second day in a row, then finished with eight straight pars to post a 72.
“I started off with a couple of bad shots and put myself in some not-so-ideal places,” said Sugimoto, of his three straight bogeys, “but I stayed patient and avoided any mental errors or big numbers coming in.”
Tuesday’s low-round belonged to Sam Horsfield, of England, whose 66 gave him a two-day total of 4-under 136. One of the youngest players in the field at age 16, Horsfield double-bogeyed the third hole, but birdied six of his last 10 holes, including all three par 5s, to surge up the leader board.
Other players to advance to match play include 2012 APL medalist James Erkenbeck (67-70—137); the low amateur at last month’s U.S. Open, Michael Kim (69-68—137); 2008 U.S. Junior Amateur champion Cameron Peck (68-70—138); and 51-year-old Sean Knapp (69-73—142), who just last week competed in the U.S. Senior Open in Omaha, Nebraska.
Thirteen golfers began a playoff for 11 spots to round out the 64-player match-play portion of the championship. They made it through one hole, the 181-yard 16th, before darkness forced a suspension of play. Kyle Henning made a birdie-2, while Mitchell Rutledge, Justin Wenger, Payne Gniewek, Brandon Hortt, Sam Straka and Justin Shin made pars to secure their spots in the match play bracket. The playoff will resume Wednesday at 7 a.m. EDT on the 10th hole with five players for four spots.
The U.S. Amateur Public Links is one of 13 national championships conducted annually by the United States Golf Association, 10 of which are strictly for amateurs. First round matches will begin immediately after the conclusion of the playoff on Wednesday, with the championship scheduled to conclude with a 36-hole final on Saturday.