South spots up for grabs

TODD SAELHOF, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:31 AM ET

The big guns are waiting.

Kevin Martin, Randy Ferbey, Kevin Koe ...

All three super-shooters are sitting idle, waiting for the curling world to determine their opponents for the Alberta championship and a ticket to the Brier at the Saddledome, March 7-15.

"You gotta meet 'em some time," said Calgary's Dean Ross, who hopes to get his shot at Alberta's Big 3 at provincials by securing one of three qualifying spots at southerns this coming weekend.

The 16-team second step of provincial playdowns begins Friday at The Glencoe Club, with Ross among the favourite rinks. The others include fellow Calgary foursomes skipped by Dan Petryk and Steve Petryk and those headed by Coaldale's Darren Moulding and Brooks' Scott Egger.

"We've gotta stay confident and stay on top of our game," said Ross of his rink, which includes third Greg Northcott, second Chris Blackwell and lead Aaron Westgard.

"And we've gotta play the whole game, too. When we lose, it always seems like it's one big end. We've been working hard at it -- sitting down and chatting about southerns.

"I think we are ready."

Now's the time to be prepared, given only the cream of the crop advances to provincials.

Gone are the days of the districts that saw 16 of 27 teams -- over the last three weeks -- qualify for these southerns. Now it's down to three of 16 who will make the trip to compete for the Alberta title against the likes of Martin, Ferbey and Koe -- all of whom pre-qualified for the provincial final.

"As far as I'm concerned, probably the 16 teams that qualified should've qualified for southerns," Ross said. "All the teams that are there should be there.

"Now it's a different level, and you have to elevate your game to that level."

Ross should know. He's gunning for a men's title just 16 months after winning the Canadian mixed national championship, so the skip knows what it takes to be a curling king.

"If you're shooting 5% better in your game, it makes a big difference," Ross said. "You've gotta be up there in the 85 to 90% range. You're not going to win money going less than curling 80%, especially since the men's game has elevated so much.

"Guys like Martin and Ferbey, Kerry Burtnyk and Jeff Stoughton and Wayne Middaugh have pushed competition up to the next level. If you want to compete with them, you've gotta step it up."

EXTRA ENDS

At the men's last-chance districts in Didsbury, Hari Sulimma of the Calgary Curling Club, Adrian Bakker of the Calgary Curling Club and Airdrie's Lyle Kent won respective A, B and C events to qualify for the southerns ... The juvenile men's playdowns began this past weekend at the Calgary Winter Club, where eight rinks qualified for southerns, Feb. 6-8 in Fort Macleod. Sundre's Craig Bourgoyne and Red Deer's Shane Parcels won spots out of the A event. Matthew Kindree of the Garrison Curling Club and Acadia Valley's Dustin Rafa qualified out of the B side. Oyen's Josh Carroll, Dwayne Conlon of the North Hill Curling Club, Garrison's Jacob Ortt, and Calgary Winter Club's Carter Lautner all grabbed southerns berths out of the C event ... At the senior men's districts this past weekend in Lethbridge, Ian Wolsey (Lethbridge), Ken Holmes and Darrell Ell (Lethbridge) secured passes to southerns, Jan. 30-Feb. 2 in Airdrie, by winning respective A-, B- and C-side titles ... Sixteen rinks qualified for southerns from the master men's districts held this past weekend in Okotoks -- Wayne Barrowcliffe (Calgary Winter), Ken MacRae (Calgary Curling), Ted Ganden (Medicine Hat), Larry Taylor (Granite), Lloyd Heller (Medicine Hat), Harold Breckenridge (Inglewood), Dan Guglielmin (Calgary Winter), Raymond Hagel (North Hill), Wil Sanders (Inglewood), Maurice Partridge (Calgary Curling), George Drabath (Calgary Curling), Lorne Danielson (Inglewood), Rick Scott (Inglewood), Reg Rowell (Calgary Curling), Rod Butcher (North Hill) and Frank Bailey (The Glencoe).

LAST ROCK

The World Curling Tour returns tomorrow with a men's grand slam in Winnipeg. Kevin Martin, with Calgarians John Morris and Ben Hebert, looks to defend last year's win in the BDO Canadian Open of Curling. The $100,000 spiel features 18 rinks, including Martin and fellow Alberta rinks skipped by Koe and Ferbey ... Martin is tops on the men's WCT money list with $104,553, while Glenn Howard ($99,960), and Ferbey ($60,000) sit second and third respectively. On the women's side, Calgary's Shannon Kleibrink leads with $50,788. Calgary's Cheryl Bernard sits fourth with $36,050.


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