LORTON, Va. –Garret Rank, of Canada, fired a 5-under 65 to claim the first-round clubhouse lead following the morning wave at the 2013 U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship being conducted at the 7,022-yard, par-70 Laurel Hill Golf Club.
Rank, 25, a hockey referee who finished runner-up at last year’s U.S. Mid-Amateur, made six birdies and one bogey on the 2005 Bill Love-designed course. Starting on the 10th hole, Rank made eight pars and one birdie on his first nine, then kicked it into gear on the second nine with five more birdies, including an 8-iron to 3 feet on the 186-yard, par-3 fourth.
“I drove it well, hit a bunch of greens and made a few 15 footers,” said Rank. “It wasn’t anything spectacular, but I gave myself a lot of chances out there.”
Rank finished second at last week’s Ontario Amateur and has top-20 finishes at the Northeast Amateur and the Sahalee Players Championship this summer. The Ontario native hopes to qualify or receive an exemption into the PGA Tour’s RBC Canadian Open next week. He will play in the U.S. Mid-Amateur in October with hopes of avenging his 1-down loss to Nathan Smith in 2012 at Conway Farms Golf Club in suburban Chicago. This week, he is hoping to draw on that experience at the APL.
“Now I know what it takes to play eight rounds in six days,” said Rank. “I think I can use that to my advantage.”
Rank leads Sam Saunders, 21, of Albuquerque, N.M., by one shot. Saunders was the last person added to the 156-player field, gaining entry when 2012 semifinalist, Kyle Beversdorf, withdrew because of an injury. Saunders was the first alternate from the Albuquerque qualifier and needed some exceptional play even to earn that spot.
“There was only one spot available in the qualifier and Greg Condon was beating everybody by 10,” said Saunders. “I was playing horribly and was something like seven shots down to the second place guy with nine holes to go.”
But Saunders shot a 32 on his final nine and earned the first alternate spot by winning the first playoff hole. But by last Thursday, Saunders’ chances of making the field still seemed bleak as he had not received a call from the USGA.
“I kind of gave up hope and signed up for another tournament,” said Saunders, who advanced to the second round at the 2012 APL. “I thought it was over. But when I got that message on late Thursday, I made all my travel arrangements and got up here.”
Despite playing only one practice round, Saunders took full advantage on Monday. Starting on the 10th, he recorded seven birdies, including a stretch of four in a row on from No. 2 en route to a 4-under 66.
The two other players in Saunders’ group also played well. Justin Shin, of Canada, birdied two of his last three holes to post a 1-under 69 and Addison Lambeth, of Browns Summit, N.C., shot a 3-under 67.
2008 U.S. Junior Amateur champion Cameron Peck opened with a 2-under 68 and Michael Kim, the low amateur at last month’s U.S. Open, carded a 1-under 69.
The 2013 U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship consists of 36 holes of stroke play followed by six rounds of match play, with the championship scheduled to conclude with a 36-hole final on Saturday.
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.
Seventy-eight players remain on the course for the afternoon wave, including 2012 APL stroke-play medalist James Erkenbeck and 2011 U.S. Junior Amateur runner-up Chelso Barrett.
Michael Trostel is the senior curator/historian for the USGA Museum. Email him at email@example.com.