Monday, October 10, 2011

Inside the Scottish Mixed

You know that you’re getting old when you walk into the Scottish Senior Mixed Championship and start seeing young people on the ice. It’s ridiculous. Jim Cannon is a junior; his wife, Christine, is 26; Marion Craig, one of their conquerors in the semifinal of the high road – more of that later – still looks the same as she did when I first met her yesterday morning, thirty-odd years ago. It’s a nightmare!

Anyhow, onto the curling. I don’t suppose there can be a finer spot than the North West Castle hotel in Stranraer for a competition like this. Good food; good cheer; plenty of drink on tap to soothe and rehydrate the thirsty soul, and ice on the interesting side of tricky to keep everyone honest and fully attentive. There were four tough sections of five teams, so everyone was guaranteed four games. Winners went straight through to the high road semifinals and the section runners-up had the consolation of the low road semifinals to console them.

In Section A, holder Archie Craig tied on six points with Donald Rutherford and Kevin Fearn. Archie sneaked through to the high road semifinal on a higher end count with Donald edging Kevin by three ends. You had to feel for Kevin. He only lost one game and finished on a higher points total than two other teams, Gary Rutherford and Robert Smellie – both of whom qualified for the low road.

Jim Cannon’s powerful looking local team – wife Christine with Peter and Anne Wilson – dominated Section B with four straight wins. They were a frightening twenty-six shots up at the end of section proceedings. The same thing happened in Section C where another local team skipped by Dick Adams (another youngster, by the way!) finished three points ahead of section runner-up Gary Macfarlane.

And so to section D. I wish I could report a different result, seeing as how we came third! Truth be told, Sandy Nelson was way ahead of the pack and finished on eight points. Robert Smellie played a delicate hit and stick against Jim Black to peel his game and qualify for the low road semifinal. The rest of us retired bloody but unbowed; we will be back next year – make no mistake!

And now for the surprises! The oldies (forgive me chaps and chappesses!) took on the youngsters, played them and beat them. Archie Craig, with wife Marion and Robin and Yvonne Aitken played a canny game against Jim Cannon. The first three ends were blanked! A big four scored in the sixth end sealed things for Archie and co. In the other semifinal – again a tight affair – Sandy Nelson scored a two in the eighth end to secure his final spot with a win over Dick Adams.

The final, according to chief umpire for the weekend, Bill Scott, was a great game of curling with both teams firing on all cylinders in front of a typically large and vociferous south west Scotland audience in the bar. Bill reports, “Coming into the last end peels at six shots all, the two teams fought to build a defensive wall in front of their shots in the house with advantage swinging back and forth. With his last stone played, Archie had one white stone lying shot in amongst several reds – well defended from direct attack, but slightly vulnerable to a perfectly played inwick.”

Sandy came within inches of making the shot, but just missed, leaving Archie, Marion, Robin and Yvonne champions for the second year running.

All in all, a great weekend’s fun and fellowship on the ice. If you are of an age and so minded, you should certainly consider putting together a team for next year’s championship in October 2012.

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