He's one in a million

Kevin Martin, who is $10,000 away from becoming curling's first million-dollar career earner, poses...

Kevin Martin, who is $10,000 away from becoming curling's first million-dollar career earner, poses at the Saville Centre Thursday, Jan. 13, 2005. (Sun Media/David Bloom)

CON GRIWKOWSKY -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 9:07 AM ET

Who wants to be a millionaire?

Most everybody, but not everybody can see there from here.

Kevin Martin can. He's less than $10,000 away from becoming the first curler with $1 million in career earnings and has a good shot at getting there later this month at the Canadian Open in Winnipeg.

In terms of the pro sports world, a million may seem like chump change.

"The NHL players will make more interest this year than I'll win," Martin said wryly at the Canada Cup West earlier this year.

Martin's milestone is a payback for the leading role he played in making huge paydays possible.

"It's kind of cool. It's a good milestone. I remember when Tom Kite was the first golfer to win a million in a year. That was a big milestone. Now, they're playing for a million every week. This doesn't mean a lot to me, really because I play and I love playing for money.

"I hope it keeps growing. Next, it will be (Wayne) Middaugh. Young guys like (John) Morris will have made $2 million by the time he's my age. Hopefully, the guy behind him gets double that."

Martin's team has won $476,500 and counting in the last three seasons and has a legitimate shot at $500,000 with two Grand Slam events left.

"Getting to a million is no big deal to me personally," said Martin. "The way I look at it is the game's progressing. The whole sport is growing in leaps and bounds right now."

That three-year time frame is pretty significant for Martin. Cashspiel curling had lost its television contract and Martin set out on a mission to not only regain the exposure but to take the game to a different level.

He spearheaded an effort that resulted in the Grand Slam concept. That made today's big paydays possible by extending the cashspiel season into a time traditionally reserved for playdowns.

"Curling was in a scary spot at that time," said Martin. "As it turned out, the only way to grow the sport was to have every curler play a full season, from September to April."

Martin and his breakaway group of players took plenty of flack by denying the Brier many of its star names and knocking curling's administrators out of their comfort zones.

"It had to be done," said Martin. "Otherwise, nothing would have changed. I'd fight that fight again in a minute.

"I'll tell you when the big fight was for me and that was trying to make it to the last Olympics. It was right at the spot in time where it (Grand Slam) could have gone either way. If our team or Middaugh's team didn't get to the Olympics, this whole thing would have sewered. That's the honest truth."

All the agony, all the sleepless nights now seem worthwhile. The expansion of Alberta's provincials to a 12-team format is a side effect.

"There was huge tension for me in my real life," said Martin. "Day-to-day and hour-to-hour. I was very motivated, very focused.

"There kinda is a sense of personal satisfaction. Ten years ago, it would have been impossible for anybody to make $100,000 a season. Now there's us, (Randy) Ferbey and (Glenn) Howard.

"I remember when we talked, about three years ago, when we went over 100. I said, 'well that's good, but we need three or four teams to get over 100.' The day we get one team up at a half-million, then it becomes inviting to play - for the kids. I think it's fairly easy to see that happening now."

Just to see how far the game has come in such a short time seems enough to make Martin feel like a million bucks.


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