Jim Cotter was literally a rock star Monday night at the Vernon Curling Club.
He one-upped every spectacular shot Jamie King’s Edmonton rink tossed for a 7-3 victory in the men’s final of the $26,000 World Curling Tour Prestige Hotels Curling Classic.
Cotter, who played third for 2008-09 champion Bob Ursel of Kelowna, won his first Vernon cashspiel as a skip. He was backed by newcomer Jason (The Gunner) Gunnlaugson at third, and Tyrel Griffith and Rick Sawatsky on the front end. Sawatsky was lead for those two Ursel-winning teams.
Cotter, who took the long and winding C event road to the final six, collected $7,000. King, with Blake MacDonald throwing skip rocks, Scott Pfeifer and Jeff Erickson aboard, took home $5,000. King won the Saville Shootout two weeks ago in Edmonton.
“It’s a new team so we had to maximize our games,” laughed Cotter, seconds after being bearhugged by his young daughter, Emerson. “It all worked out good. Even after our second loss, we thought we played well. (Sean of New Westminster) Geall had a good team and that one kind of slipped away.
“We just knew we’d be OK if we stuck to our game-plan. We believe in one another. I know it’s a cliche, but you gotta stick together which we did and just slowly progressed from there and got better and better.”
Sawatsky and Griffith, in his second year with the team, earned their showers with hard sweeping and Gunnlaugson almost broke a rock or two with his zillion-per-hour throws.
“Hats off to our front end; they were phenomenal on the brooms and Jason is a great addition to our team. I look forward to hitting the ice again.”
Gunnlaugson, who moved here five months ago from Winnipeg, is ecstatic with his new teammates, who went 3-3 in the Saskatoon cashspiel two weeks ago.
“I couldn’t have met nicer guys,” said Gunnlaugson, 28. “Other curlers are teasing me because I have to be the biggest jerk on the team with these guys. It’s a lot of fun playing with them obviously, and when Jimmy goes into God-mode on Monday, it’s nice for a cheque.”
Gunnlaugson is famous for being able to throw a rock with a four-second peel (time measured from hogline to hogline). Some of his shots were captured on Youtube from the 2008 Canadian Mixed Tournament. His female teammates were unable to keep up with the speed of the rock.
A nephew of curling great Garry VanDenBerghe, now of Vernon, Gunnlaugson had a front-row seat for Cotter’s magical performance.
“I just got to scream my head off and the sweepers pounded it and Jimmy was making lots of shots. We played well, top to bottom, all weekend. We started off slow and then we really got it rolling, but there was some special hitting by Jim in the end that got ‘er done.”
Gunnlaugson also gave props to MacDonald, who delivered a game-saving shot for a deuce in the fifth end.
“The shot that Blake made in five. Goodness, gracious, he made a (Al) Hackner double. He hit like less than a centimetre of rock, kicked it over three inches and made the back one and stuck. It was unbelievable; it looked like it was gonna be handshakes there.
“Blake’s just so dangerous; it’s always so scary to give him any opportunity. And the guys with him, this is for two bonspiels in a row so obviously they’re playing out of their minds so it’s fun to win.”
Cotter, a computer programmer, stopped Jay Wakefield of New Westminster 6-3, while King toppled Steve Petryk of Calgary in the noon semifinals Monday.
Earlier Monday, Cotter grounded Pete Fenson of Seattle 6-2, while King edged Geall 5-4.
MacDonald, who played third for 2009-10 Vernon cashspiel champion Kevin Koe, was throwing last rocks for King after he called the shots in the Edmonton Saville Shootout two weeks ago. MacDonald was in awe of Cotter.
“You can’t fart against thunder and Jimmy was unbelievable today,” said MacDonald. “I don’t know how many doubles he made, probably in 14 shots, I bet he made eight or nine doubles (best was for a single in seven). He was too good. All the credit to him and his team. They were awesome today.”
Asked who plays where at the next cashspiel, MacDonald deadpanned: “We’ll rock, paper, scissors for it.”
Sawatsky, a Vernon product working and living in Kelowna, said they used the extra games to find their way as a new unit.
“Jimmy is dialed right in right now. He was making everything out there look real easy. That shot there in seven was just amazing. With that kind of weight, to make that sort of precision roll. It was a pretty good game. Blake made some pistols out there too. We just tried to let Jimmy do his thing and try not to screw him up.”
Cotter competes in the Westcoast Curling Classic in New Westminster this weekend.