Canada leads Spirit International Amateur

TRINITY, TEXAS—Regardless of whether second round leader Team Canada wins The Spirit International gold medal, it deserves an award for being the gutsiest team in the field.

The Canadians showed resiliency in the first round when the men’s team rebounded from a bogey-bogey start to birdie the next three holes and post a tournament-best 10-under par.

Well, that was nothing.

After Wednesday’s first round, Canadian Garrett Rank spent the next several hours in the Huntsville Memorial Hospital. With fever that spiked to 102 degrees, Rank was treated for a stomach virus and dehydration. He complained of intense pains in his thighs, hips and stomach. Doctors ran multiple tests, gave him IV fluids and ordered bed rest.

A 24-year-old senior at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Rank was released late Wednesday evening and finally returned to Camp Olympia at Whispering Pines Golf Club just before midnight.

“I started feeling sick when we got here on Monday,” Rank said. “I had stomach pains and a lack of energy. I was just very weak overall.”

Feeling better but still not close to 100 percent, Rank stayed in bed Thursday until 8:45 a.m. His tee time with teammate Mackenzie Hughes was scheduled for 9:30 a.m.

“I thought I was going to have to play alone,” said Hughes, 21, the 2011Canadian Men’s Amateur champion. “It was going to be a lonely walk.”

Turns out Hughes had company after all. Rank got to the course in time to roll a couple practice putts before teeing off at the team’s scheduled time. A four-year hockey player at Waterloo, Rank said sitting out was never an option.

“I’ve played hockey games with a couple concussions when I probably shouldn’t have,” he said with a smile. “I played once with a broken thumb. It’s about sucking it up and fighting through the pain.”

Rank battled through his illness Thursday— along with chilly, 60-degree weather and gusts of winds up to 30 mph—to help Canada post 2-under-par 142. Through 36 holes of the 54-hole best-ball stroke play event, the Canadians lead the 20-team international field at 14-under par. The U.S. Team rallied late to post an even-par round of 144 and trail Canada by three shots. Korea had the low round of the day at 4-under 138 and sits in third place overall at 8-under.

The blustery winds and colder temperatures made playing conditions at Whispering Pines infinitely more difficult Thursday compared to the first round. Another cold front was expected to push through late Thursday night, prompting Tournament Director Eric Fredricksen to push back the first tee time for Friday’s third round by one hour. The Spirit will begin at 9:30 a.m. on Friday. (Tee times and live scoring are available at www.golfstat.com.)

Inspired by his Canadian teammate’s presence, Hughes made birdies on the third and fifth holes and eagled on the par-5 12th. Rank contributed with a birdie on the par-5 17th and added a gritty par-save on the 15th hole. After the round, Rank said he felt the best he had all week and expected his health to improve by Friday. Along with much of the field, the Canadian women struggled in the biting winds and finished at 2-over par.

Rank and Hughes’ performance was to push Canada to 12-under par in the Men’s Team division. They lead South Africa and Japan by two shots and the U.S. by three.

“This is a team competition, and Garrett gutted it out,” Hughes said of his teammate. “I really appreciated the help.”

While Rank showcased the most courage Thursday, Argentina’s Victoria Tanco turned in the second round’s most impressive performance. The two-time American Junior Golf Association’s player of the year scorched Whispering Pines for eight birdies to vault the Argentines from ninth to fifth place in the overall International Team competition.

“I felt really comfortable today,” said Tanco, a 17-year-old who has played in the past four Women’s U.S. Opens as an amateur and will turn professional after The Spirit. “My putting was working. I love these greens. They’re like U.S. Open greens— really fast with a lot of slope in them.”

Tanco birdied four holes on both the front and back nine. She made just two bogeys and shot a combined best ball 68 with teammate Manuela Carbajo Re.

“If you play good, you can birdie any hole,” said Tanco, who won the 2011 Women’s Western Amateur by a mind-boggling 13- and-12 score. “This course is hard, though, so you have to play good. But it can be done.”

Tanco leads the Women’s Individual competition with 10 total birdies through two rounds. Her round today pushed Argentina into the lead in the Women’s Team division at 7-under. Korea sits in second place at 6- under, and the U.S. Women are in third place at 4-under.

About The Spirit
The 2011 Spirit International features 80 participants from 20 countries representing six continents. Country teams are comprised of national amateur champions and top- ranked players. The format of play for the competition is Four-Ball Stroke Play. The men’s and women’s Four-Ball score is combined for the International Team competition. There is also a separate men’s and women’s team and individual competitions.

ABOUT THE The Spirit International Amateur

The Spirit International Amateur Golf Championship is world class golf event played every other year. It features the world’s best amateur men and amateur women golfers as they represent their respective country in team and individual competitions. The 96 participants enjoy an Olympic-like experience from the Opening/Closing Ceremonies, international village and competing for gold medals. The World Health & Golf Association and Texas Golf Association invite 24 countries from six continents to participate. Established in 2001, The Spirit is a biennial event that alternates tournament years with the World Amateur Team Championships.

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