Vernon’s Jim Cotter begins the hunt for a third straight Canadian Direct Insurance B.C. men’s curling championship today in Nelson.

Vernon’s Jim Cotter begins the hunt for a third straight Canadian Direct Insurance B.C. men’s curling championship today in Nelson.

Jim Cotter seeking three-peat

Vernon curler joins field of 16 as he goes after his third straight Canadian Direct Insurance BC men's curling championship...

Soak up the Arizona sun. Relax poolside. Win nearly $5,000.

It was the perfect tonic for Jim Cotter and teammates to prepare for a run at a third straight Canadian Direct Insurance B.C. Men’s Curling championship, which begins this morning at the Nelson Curling Club.

Cotter, third Ryan Kuhn second Tyrel Griffith and lead Rick Sawatsky tuned up for the provincial tournament by going 6-1 at the Ed Werenich Golden Wrench Classic in Phoenix (average daily temperature between 20 and 25 degrees Celsius), losing the final, 9-3, to former teammate John Morris and the Pat Simmons rink out of Calgary.

Cotter and company collected $4,900 for reaching the final.

“It was awesome, a really good time,” said Cotter.

“We rented a house and we all stayed together. We were sitting by the pool, the guys went golfing a couple of times and it was good for us to get some games in and get back together. We hadn’t played in a month.”

After a weekend training camp in Vernon, and a practice at the Nelson club Tuesday, it’s down to the business of winning a third consecutive provincial title for Cotter, and fifth in the last six years.

In the last five provincials – including last year’s thrilling extra end win on home ice at the Vernon Curling Club over New Westminster’s Dean Joanisse – Cotter is 32-7 overall, 12-1 in the last two years.

“We’ve been fortunate to put ourselves in good situations,” said Cotter of his provincial success. “There’s a lot of really good teams, and there’s definitely a target (on our backs) but other teams will have targets on their backs.

“We have to go there and focus on the process and do what we need to do, which is make shots and put points on the board.”

Cotter opens the 16-team tournament at 9 a.m. in the first draw against Will House of Richmond.

Vernon’s Mark Longworth, in search of his first provincial purple heart in his 11th attempt (qualified for the B.C.’s for the fourth straight year), opens at 9 a.m. against former Vernon junior Tom Buchy of Kimberley.

“It will be a good test,” said Longworth, who has his son, Michael, at third, Penticton’s Blaine Black at second and John Slattery at lead.

“We lost to him last year in Vernon in the B event. It’s always a tough matchup for us. We’re looking forward to a good first game.”

Longworth reached the playoffs in Vernon last year despite playing with a severe hamstring injury. The goal for the veteran is to make one of the four qualifying spots for Saturday’s playoff round, hoping to use his vast provincial playdowns experience.

“One loss or two losses doesn’t kick you out,” said Longworth. “We have to stay even and come ready to play.”

It’s a triple knockout format with one rink qualifying from the A and B events, and two rinks making the playoffs out of the C event. The A and B winners meet in the one-versus-two Page playoff game, with the winner advancing directly to Sunday’s 4 p.m. final.

The loser plays the winner of the three-versus-four game in the semifinal.

Vernon’s Jamie Sexton is also competing at the provincial finals, throwing third rocks for Stephen Schneider of Vancouver.

The B.C. winner advances to the Tim Hortons Brier in Ottawa.