Conners advances with light-hearted caddie on bag

Corey Conners celebrates with his caddie Garrett Rank after they defeated Neil Raymond during the quarterfinals at the 2013 U. S. Amateur at The Country Club.

Corey Conners celebrates with his caddie Garrett Rank after they defeated Neil Raymond during the quarterfinals at the 2013 U. S. Amateur at The Country Club.

— A player/caddie relationship is the most important one on the golf course, whether it be in stroke or match play.

At the beginning of the week, Corey Conners, one of four players to advance into the U.S. Amateur semifinals Friday, didn’t have a caddie. He was going to be carrying his own bag.

Garrett Rank, a fellow Canadian National Team member, failed to advance to the match play portion of the championship at The Country Club on Tuesday evening.

Since the two players were already rooming together, it was only appropriate for Rank to jump on the bag for Conners.

Results from Friday's quarterfinal matches

“I don’t know if he asked me to be his caddie or I just said, ‘I’m caddying for you, big guy,’ ” Rank said.

Conners, a senior at Kent State, and Rank, a recent graduate of the University of Waterloo, have known each other for years as they played junior golf tournaments against each other growing up 20 minutes apart in Listowel (Conners) and Elmira (Rank), Ontario.

In the quarterfinal match, when Conners defeated co-medalist Neil Raymond, 5 and 3, Rank was keeping the atmosphere on the course upbeat due in large part to the high-pressure situation Conners was in.

“I’m just kind of trying to say a few things to keep the mood light,” said Rank, the 2012 U.S. Mid-Amateur runner-up. “On 14, he counted a five, but he probably would have had to hit it six or seven times to get it to the hole there, so I say, ‘Eh buddy, that’s a good five there.’ And we picked it up as the ball was rolling back down the hill, so you know other things like tough lies in the rough and saying some things that I shouldn’t be saying. Just to bring a smile and to get him relaxed is pretty much the whole objective of my job.”

Beside the chirping back-and-forth to one another, Rank also played limbo with a rope the marshals were holding up so spectators didn’t get too close to the action, and more than once did Rank’s hand give Conners a bit of a love tap to fire him up or give him a confidence boost.

“He (Rank) keeps me smiling all the way around. He has some funny comments to lighten things up,” Conners said. “It’s awesome and his experience with match play being in the U.S. Mid-Am finals last year is awesome. He keeps my foot on the pedal and helps me make good decisions, and being really confident. I’m pretty lucky.”

Conners will play the young Englishman, Matthew Fitzpatrick in first semifinal match in the morning.

“He’ll (Rank) be sticking around hopefully for a few more days,” Conners said.

They hope to be around until Sunday.

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