Martin enjoys the ride

CON GRIWKOWSKY -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 7:41 AM ET

Beginner's luck? Or the dawn of a juggernaut?

Kevin Martin's not sure. All he knows is his early-season winning streak will end some time. Right now, he's enjoying the ride.

Martin and his new supporting cast are 10-0 out of the gate this cashspiel season after a pair of wins yesterday at the $76,000 Don Bartlett Curling Classic in Gander, Newfoundland.

"What did I expect?" said Martin. "I don't know if I expected this right away. We just went into the season making sure we were in shape. We prepared as well as we could."

They already have nine grand in their jeans after winning the Shorty Jenkins spiel last weekend. That included a tight extra-end win over Wayne Middaugh in the semi.

Strange, this Bartlett factor. Martin's long-time lead made no secret of the fact last year's playdowns run was to be his last hurrah. Bartlett's career ended this spring in Regina, where he and Martin made their seventh Brier appearance together and first since 2000.

So, Martin decided to clean house, sweeping aside long-time second Carter Rycroft and Don Walchuk and making a clean start for a new Olympic cycle.

Martin's new supporting cast includes two-time world junior champ John Morris and front-enders Marc Kennedy and Ben Hebert, who played for Saskatchewan's Pat Simmons in last year's Brier.

The big question mark about how quickly it would take the team to find its identity seems to be answered.

"I know Marc exceptionally well because he's been working with me the past three years," said Martin. "But as far as on-ice familiarity and handling pressure situations go, that'll take some time to get it down just right." Bartlett is with the team in Gander, but only in an inspirational role.

"Absolutely ... he's got to be at his own spiel," said Martin. "Byron Nelson was there at his golf tournament every year, Bob Hope always shows up at his. It was important for him to be here."

Martin's other former rinkmates also seem to have landed on their feet.

Rycroft is playing second on a team skipped by Calgary's Kevin Koe with Blake MacDonald throwing last rocks. He's not in Gander this weekend, but his team's schedule shadows Martin's. Walchuk qualified and won $1500 at last weekend's September Shootout at the Saville Centre. He's got talented shooters Brent MacDonald and Warren Hassal in his supporting cast.


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