I have been having a wee look at the Scottish Senior Championships as I see that their playdowns take place in Greenacres and Forfar, January 6-8.
I can do this now that I am no longer involved. Well – for this year at least! It is always interesting for the serious student of the sport to see how champions of yesteryear face up to those who have come to the competitive game later in their lives. Interesting also to see how knees and joints have faced up to the trauma that the years have bestowed on them. Some wear better than others though it is astonishing, to these eyes at least, to note that the deliveries that served their masters well twenty and thirty years ago still seem up to the task all this time later.
I swear, for example, that if you were to look at Ken Horton throw a stone now and compare his delivery to the Ken Horton that was winning Scottish and Scottish Junior Championships back in the seventies and eighties, you would see not a lot of difference. He is still early into his delivery position and is able to release the stone accurately fairly early by today’s fashion. He was never one of these players who gave the hogline judge much trouble - except maybe on a hack-weight takeout on really keen ice - but the balance and accuracy is still there, witnessed by the fact that he has now won the Scottish Senior Championships twice – once as third to his old mucker, Graeme Adam, and once as skip in his own right.
The rest have to get past Ken and his champion rink of Gordon Butler, Angus Storrie and Eddie Binks before they can say they have done it and are crowned champions. I fancy that Keith Prentice – still smarting after losing two early games in last season’s finals at Hamilton and finding himself out of contention before he really got started – may be one of teams that Ken has his eyes on. Keith has a strong rink in front of him - Lockhart Steele, Robin Aitken and Tommy Fleming – and they have played together for a number of years. This is important at any level of curling. In their first season as champions, they went out to Canada and took on the famous Al Hackner/Rick Lang combination not once, but twice; and twice they won to bring back the gold medals.
Those of us old enough well remember just what a class top end Hackner and Lang were. They represented Canada in the 1985 Silver Broom at the Kelvin Hall in Glasgow and were streets ahead of their opponents. Another advantage that Keith has is that he coaches the junior team skipped by Jay McWilliam. These boys keep him young, but the fact that he coaches at that level has kept him informed and aware.
Last season’s runners-up, Colin Hamilton, Mike Dick, Trevor Dodds and Colin Baxter (replacing Ian MacPherson) will also be there or thereabouts when the fat lady starts warbling. Mike and Colin H are two other examples of the 'same delivery thirty years on' theory and are both fiercely competitive. Trevor and Colin B will be as strong a front end as will be on show – another formidable outfit.
Willie Jamieson returns with the same team from last season. Whisper this, but David Kelly at second has been for lessons with David Murdoch at Greenacres. He has had to change his delivery from tuck to flat foot to stop his leg from falling off and David McGann at lead has resorted to quite the most ridiculous pair of spectacles ever seen on a curling rink. Who knows though? Gordon Kennedy brings steel and tactical nous to the party; all four are good chums on and off the ice; they were semifinalists last season. They could very well challenge.
Graeme Adam has teamed up this season with Bob Kelly, reverting to his favoured team position of third, Stuart Naismith and Jean Lesperance. Many argue that Graeme was the finest tactician of his generation; if he and Bob click, and if the front end play up to their reputation, then he may very well mount a serious challenge as well to pick up his second senior title.
There are others to consider. Old-school teams like Barton Henderson (but will Greig be skipping that team?) will need to face up to newer names (comparatively speaking) like Gary Macfarlane and Ian Gillespie. Past champions like Ronnie Peat will face off against the likes of David Clydesdale and Alan Durno. All to play for!
Now to the ladies and I will be blunt – I don’t know what to tell you! No qualifiers here, all twenty teams go through to the Finals at the Lanarkshire Ice Rink, February 7-12. To me, the championship is as open as the Russian Steppes. More about the girls later.
Since writing this, I have learned that my services are, in fact, required for the district championships! The poor team involved had apparently been right through the card of eligible players that they decided to cut their losses and phone me. They knew I was desperate for a game. I will spare their blushes. Suffice to say that any remote chance they may have had has now vanished – a bit like the snow and ice off the Russian Steppes come the spring.
Get me a phone – quick now. I need to speak to my gym chap. Barman – another gin, please. And I’ll leave the size to your good self.