Skip finds housework more draining

STEVE GREEN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:17 AM ET

Jake Higgs has played in two national mixed and three previous Ontario men's curling championships, all as a front-end player.

But all that sweeping, he said, has nothing on the strain of being a skip trying for a place in the Brier.

The 33-year-old from Strathroy, curling out of Harriston, is making his shot-calling debut at a provincial championship at the TSC Tankard Ontario men's championship at the Woodstock District Community Complex.

He's started off well, beating 2004 provincial champion and 1998 Olympic silver medallist Mike Harris of Toronto Donalda 10-4 in his opening game yesterday before edging 2000 Ontario champ Peter Corner of Brampton 9-7 last night, holding on after racing out to a 7-1 lead after five ends.

"It's quite different. It's exciting," said Higgs, who throws third stones while Brent Ross of Listowel throws fourth. "It's just that much more exciting when you're standing on the same sheet as (three-time defending champion) Glenn Howard or Peter Corner.

"But I find I get more drained as a skip, concentrating on exactly where to put the broom. With sweeping, you just pound on the rocks when you need to and then get a rest."

Having Ross throw the final stones is working well.

"We've done that for two years now. It's a great marriage," Higgs said. "We just came to an agreement that I'd throw third stones and call the game. And when he's sweeping, he gets a much better feel for the ice, which helps when he has to make those pressure draws."

Higgs was second for Wayne Tuck at the national mixed in November in Iqaluit, Nunavut, where they were runners-up to Manitoba.

"It was almost like a different country; it wasn't anything like London. People were complaining about the cost of travel and the cold, but I looked at it like a once-in-a-lifetime experience," Higgs said of his Arctic adventure. "And I think having been on arena ice already this season has helped, because I feel comfortable here right away."

With second Andrew Clayton of Paris and lead Micky Lizmore of London adding a "new exuberance" in Higgs' words, the rink won the A side of both Zone 14 and regional playdowns to enter the Tankard on somewhat of a competitive roll.

But while Higgs likes his chances this week, he isn't going to make any predictions.

"These things can spiral out of control," he said. "We honestly didn't talk about expectations. If you say you're coming in with the goal of just making the playoffs, inevitably you come up one game short. It always happens.

"We're not even the second or third favourite here, so we will fly under the radar a bit, but we have a chance to do well . . . we could always lose to some of the teams who aren't 'big names. Anything can happen."

Two former provincial champions have already found that out.


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