CALGARY - The Old Bear doesn’t mind being compared to The Golden Bear.
Just like Jack Nicklaus was in his heyday, Kevin Martin is in the business of hunting down major titles.
In fact, the super-curler is vigilant in his pursuit of Nicklaus’ lofty competitive record, attempting to match and surpass the legendary golfer’s mark of bagging 18 major titles.
With 15 and counting heading into this week’s Swiss Chalet National in Vernon, B.C., Martin’s aim is to win at least three more Grand Slam of Curling events to further his sensational career.
“I’ve talked about this for a number of years now because I think golf and curling are similar,” Martin said. “They’re both event sports. I think the slams will mean a lot more in the future going forward. So it means a lot to me.”
For a curler who’s accomplished everything in his sport — including capturing Olympic gold last February in Vancouver — the four-time Brier champion sees such a measure with Nicklaus as a significant and long-lasting legacy.
It’s no easy feat, either, since — like golf — there are only four majors on the calendar per season.
“We put a lot of effort into winning the grand slams,” said Martin, who’s flanked by fellow Edmontonian Marc Kennedy and Calgarians John Morris and Ben Hebert.
“They are hard events to win because all the top guys are there ... At a worlds or at a Brier, you always have strong teams but only one from each province or country. But at the slams, you’ve got all the tough teams — it doesn’t matter where they’re from.”
Take for example the 18-team field at the World Curling Tour’s $100,000 Swiss Chalet National, beginning Wednesday at Vernon’s Wesbild Centre.
The second of four majors on the Capital One Grand Slam schedule will feature more than just Martin’s rink representing Alberta, as Ted Appelman, Don Walchuk, Brier king Kevin Koe and Calgary’s Brent Bawel will also vie for the $40,000 top prize.
And from Manitoba, Jeff Stoughton, Kevin Park and latest major winner and WCT money leader Mike McEwen ($73,750) chase the cash, the title and the 40 first-place points for the Canadian Team Ranking System standings. Other contenders include Glenn Howard and defending champion Brad Gushue.
Alberta junior queen Nadine Chyz is back on track to defend after qualifying for the provincials over the weekend. The Calgary Curling Club skip and her rink won the B event, defeating rival Jocelyn Peterman 10-6, in the Subway Junior Women’s Southerns at the Carstairs Curling Club. The junior provincials are Jan. 5-9 in Camrose.
Three Calgary rinks swept through the Claresholm-hosted Subway Junior Men’s Southerns to earn their way to the provincials. Scott Smith (Garrison), Colin Hodgson (Calgary Curling) and Curtis Bale (North Hill) won respective A-, B- and C-side finals to punch their tickets to Camrose.
Two other roads to Alberta titles begin Friday, when the men’s and senior districts hit the ice in Black Diamond and Springbank respectively. Adrian Bakker (Calgary Curling) and host club manager Mike Libbus are among the men who will try to advance from the District A playdowns at the Oilfields Curling Club. At the Springbank Curling Club, the senior men’s District A playdowns will feature at least 23 rinks, including Lloyd Hill (Calgary Curling), Paul Gowsell (Calgary Winter) and Mickey Pendergast (Inglewood).
Lethbridge has landed the 2012 World Women’s Curling Championships, and Saskatoon will host the 2012 Tim Hortons Brier.