Morris matures

ANGELA MacISAAC -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 7:06 AM ET

The Happy Gilmore of curling?

The young gun, the upstart?

Was it really only two years ago, John Morris was accused of stomping and moping his way around the Saddledome after losing the Brier final to Edmonton's Randy Ferbey?

"I don't know if I'm going to play this game much longer," the Ottawa skip told the Sun, in light of a 9-4 defeat. "There's a lot of other things to do in life than curl."

Really?

Fast forward to yesterday: Morris, now stationed in Calgary, can't wait to get to Portage La Prairie, Man., home of this weekend's McCain Superspiel West.

"It's going to be a good time, the 25-year-old said. "I'm heading up a day early to see an old friend from Winnipeg. He's taking me hunting for the first time."

And teammates and foes need to keep an eye out for the 'pumpkin leaner.'

Yes, a pumpkin balanced atop an open door, waiting to fall on the head of the person unlucky enough to push the door further ajar.

The Morris rink -- with third Kevin Koe, second Marc Kennedy and lead Paul Moffatt -- decided they were going to have fun with this game.

"You have to," said Koe, after enjoying a rare weekend off. "We take quite a bit of our vacation time for curling.

"If we were just playing for the money, we wouldn't be very happy right now."

Oh yeah, there is that little thing about the slow start.

Morris and crew finished fifth at the Twin Anchors/Prestige Inn Classic in Kelowna and then failed to qualify for the championship rounds of the SGI Charity Classic in Regina and the Meyers Norris Penny Classic in Medicine Hat.

But, according to Morris, c'est la vie. After all, the foursome already has sewn up berths at the Alberta provincials, in Innisfail Feb. 9-13, and next year's Olympic trials in Halifax.

"Yeah, we've struggled a bit," said the former world junior champion. "It's hard to put a finger on what we've been doing wrong."

Especially since the team wrapped up its first season together with the Pharm Assist Players Championship, winning $40,000 at the World Curling Tour's final showdown in St. John's, Nfld.

"We just haven't been getting the results,"said Morris. "We're looking at the big picture, though, because we're playing better."

Is this the same guy accused of throwing temper tantrums at the 'Dome?

"If you saw Brier 2002, I used to get flustered easily," he said with a chuckle. "But I don't get as hot-headed anymore."

But to what do we owe the new and improved skip?

He credits moving to Calgary.

"I'm really enjoying it," he said. "I like the lifestyle. Everybody's pretty laid back and we're only an hour from the Rockies. How can you beat that?

"And I've been working with an autistic child and that really helps my patience. I've really settled down a lot."

But has it made him a better curler?

"I like to think you improve every year," he said. "Like Tiger Woods says, you have to learn something every time you play.

"I'm learning about my team and how we can play well together. I feel like I can make the same shots as three years ago. I don't think I've improved skill-wise but strategically, I think I know the game better."

ON THE ROCKS: Cheryl Bernard edged Shannon Kleibrink 7-6 last night in the all-Calgary final at the Casinos of Winnipeg Women's Classic. Bernard beat fellow Calgarian Renelle Bryden 9-7 in the quarter-final ... Adrian Bakker picked up $6,500 after losing 8-6 to Pat Simmons of Moose Jaw, Sask., at the Denmar Energy Classic in Bonnyville, Alta. Terry Meek earned $3,000 after losing 8-7 to Sherwood Park's James Pahl in the quarter-final. Simmons won the $15,000 booty by beating Edmonton's Randy Ferbey 7-6 in 11 ends in the final. Ferbey, who stole the tying point in the 10th end settled for $10,000.


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