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From the ice to the fairway, Porter Cup golfers prove they can do both

Garrett Rank is no stranger to pressure.

He works full time as an NHL referee during the hockey season, where his nights are filled with high-stress situations. But he's used to loud arenas with thousands of fans screaming at him, not peaceful golf courses with a handful of spectators politely clapping regardless of the outcome.

"As a golfer and a referee you really have to deal with pressure and being able to move on from a bad shot or bad call," Rank said. "Just being really decisive on the shot you want to hit and being decisive in the penalties that you are going to call."

He's also no stranger to perseverance, a trait needed on the ice, fairway and in life.

Rank, 30, said he always dreamed of being a professional athlete, but a testicular cancer diagnosis at age 22 put his athletic plans on hold. He was declared cancer free that same year and started training as a referee.

The first game he refereed was in Buffalo in 2015, and he worked 73 games last season.

"I had dreams of being a professional athlete, whether that was playing hockey or being a professional golfer," he said. "At 25, I just said to myself whatever panned out first was what I was going to do. The NHL came with a contract offer so that was when the decision was made for me."

Rank is playing in his eighth Porter Cup this week at the Niagara Falls Country Club. He's joined this year by Andrew Poturalski, another golfer with hockey connections. Poturalski, a Williamsville native, currently plays for the Carolina Hurricanes' AHL affiliate, the Charlotte Checkers.

After the first round of play, Rank is currently tied for 46th after shooting a three-over 73, while Poturalski is tied for 86th with 10-over 80 after struggling on multiple holes.

Ben Reichert's hole-in-one highlights day one of Porter Cup

For Rank, hockey is part of his blood. His father, Rich Rank, was a referee, and his brother, Kyle Rank, is a hockey player. The game holds a special place for him, for as a kid growing up in Elmira, Ont., it was part of the culture.

But golf is also important to him, and it just became part of his routine to play both. He golfed every summer after the hockey season ended, and he played both for the University of Waterloo.

"It’s even, I probably like golf better because I’m a player but the reffing thing is a great job," Rank said. "I have a lot of fun doing that, too."

His job now gives him summers off, which gives him plenty of time to pick up his golf clubs and travel to different tournaments.

"When I said to myself that I’m going to spend all my free time this summer (golfing), I want to be out here enjoying it and  having fun," Rank said. "I also think the fact that I have a job and know that I have a paycheck coming and that I’m going back to work in September that I better cherish this while I still can."

He said he played just five times during the hockey season, as the constant travel and late nights made it hard to find time to practice. Despite the lack of practice, his golf results are better than ever.

Rank not only won the Ontario Mid-Amateur this year, but also qualified for the 2018 U.S. Open after tying for first at a regional qualifying tournament in June.

"I’ve had a pretty good year," he said. "I wouldn’t say my physical skills are any better, I probably just have a better attitude and a better mind game on the course. I’m pleased with it. I know you're always happier and glad when things are going well and things happen to be going well right now."

For Poturalski, 24, golf is just a hobby he uses to entertain himself in the offseason. He played hockey in college for the University of New Hampshire after a stint in the U.S. Hockey League.

Poturalski, who was all decked out in Hurricanes gear Wednesday, left college early and signed a two-year entry level contract with the Hurricanes in 2016. In June, he signed a one-year, two-way contract with the Hurricanes. He will earn $700,000 at the NHL level or $70,000 at the AHL level during the 2018-19 season.

Poturalski, who registered 49 points in 76 games with the Checkers last season, said he is able to play golf multiple times a week, as he has multiple teammates that share the same passion.

"We have a good thing going down there, we have a couple players that also play," he said.

While Rank has always split his time between the two sports, Poturalski says his heart belongs to hockey, as golf is just a side hobby for him.

"I definitely like hockey more, it's what I love to do," he said.

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