Minutes after winning the title and the $25,000 first prize, it was little surprise to hear Glenn Howard say he’d like to come back to Kelowna to curl some day.
The same message came from the president of the World Curling Players Association who was encouraged the overall response to the Canadian Open, the first major curling event ever held inside Prospera Place.
“It’s been a fantastic experience, the venue was incredible and as the ice makers said, this surface is a charm to work with,” said Pierre Charette. “The volunteers have been amazing and for us, that makes our job coming in here so much easier. The fans were good, too, so it’s been a very good experience here.”
While a return to Kelowna next year likely won’t happen, Charette fully expects the Grand Slam circuit to return to the Okanagan in future years.
There are currently four Grand Slam men’s events, with plans to expand to as many as 10 within the next five yeas.
“One thing we’ve experienced in the past is that going back-to-back is not a good idea,” said Charette. “We like to move our events around and of course when we have success in one place, we’d like to come back. I think Kelowna will definitely be on the list for the future.”
While the week began with relatively sparse crowds, interest picked up on the weekend as nearly 2,000 fans attended Saturday’s playoff games.
Close to the same number were in the seats again on Sunday for an all-Ontario final as reigning world champion Glenn Howard defeated Brad Jacobs 3-1. In conservatively played final, Howard stole one in the eighth end as Jacobs narrowly missed a run-back attempt with his final stone.
It was Howard’s 11th career victory at a Grand Slam event.
“Obviously it’s nice to win that money, but more importantly to win the championship,” Howard said. “We’re big on winning these Grand Slams, so it feels pretty good.”
As for the possibility of future Slams in Kelowna, Howard counts himself in.
“I was really impressed with the crowds,” said Howard. “I thought they were very knowledgeable crowds and I thought it was nice to see the numbers. Quite often we don’t get the numbers we’d like to see but there were probably 1,800 to 2,000 people here watching the final. Kudos to them and hopefully we can have an event back here in Kelowna. I’d love to come back.”
Despite coming up short in Sunday’s championship game, the up-and-coming Jacobs was thrilled to experience his first Grand Slam final.
“We were all elated before that game, just happy to be in the position to try and win one of these things,” said Jacobs, who pocketed $15,000.
“You want to give yourself that chance. Even though it didn’t work out in our favour I think we’ll take this experience, learn from it and, if we ever get into a Slam final again which I’m anticipating we will, maybe we’ll close it off.”
The local favourites, Jim Cotter’s Vernon/Kelowna rink, kept the fans interested into the weekend by winning a tiebreaker to make it into the playoffs.
On Saturday, Cotter, Jason Gunnlaugson, Tyrel Griffith and Rick Sawatsky lost 7-2 to Howard in quarterfinals, but still picked up $6,000 and some valuable points towards qualifying for next year’s pre-Olympic trials.
Kelowna’s Jeff Richard played with New Westminster’s Brent Pierce who failed to qualify with a 2-3 record.