So what’s the secret of skills-competition curling and Ontario shotmakers at the Brier? Wayne Middaugh, a 44-year-old veteran, two-time Brier and world champion as a second and a skip, and a newcomer to the current Ontario champions’ lineup, won the pre-Brier Ford Hot Shots competition at mid-day Saturday, outpointing teammate Craig Savill, a former winner, by 17-15 in the final confrontation.
Middaugh wasn’t required to throw his last rock to win it after Savill miscued on his last attempt, a double takeout.
The win was the fourth straight for Ontario curlers. Savill won in 2009, Glenn Howard in 2010 and Richard Hart, the player Middaugh has replaced this season, in 2011.
“For me,” said Middaugh, “it was about the sweepers — Scott (Howard) and the guy from B.C. (Ken Maskiewich). They made a lot of shots for me. And it was great.
“You know what? I enjoyed that. And that, I think, would be a better competition for the Olympics than mixed doubles. How’s that? It’s more exciting, there’s sweeping, it gives the fans something to cheer for, and I think it’s actually more entertaining.”
The Hot Shots prize was a two-year lease on a 2012 Ford Focus Titanium, an approximate retail value of $13,000.
Now Middaugh needs a four-car garage at his home in Victoria Harbour, Ont.
There’ll be a prize-share deal on the Focus with his Ontario mates — Howard, his son Scott, Savill and Brent Laing.
“They told me well before,” Middaugh said. “They’ve won this before, and there was a pre-arrangement going into it so we’ll share. No choice. I’m the new guy on the team and I’m pretty happy to be on this team. So . . .”
Only once in the past 17 years has a Ford Hot Shots winner progressed to win the Brier. That was in 1999 when Manitoba’s Steve Gould, an alternate that year, won the car and his skip Jeff Stoughton directed the Brier winner at Edmonton.
“The same thing used to happen at the TSN Skins Game,” said Middaugh. “Usually the guy who drew the button never won the event. But some teams found a way to change that.”
Middaugh said there was needling aplenty between the finalists who will be teammates all week.
“If you know Savill at all,” said Middaugh, “he’s always chirping. But that made it more fun. It probably made it more relaxed. Poor Craig probably let his guard down. He was going real hard and for Craig to be five feet heavy on his draw weight is rare. I was the lucky recipient of that.”
Savill scored 24 of a possible 30 in the semi-final to show the way into the final. Middaugh had 21 points, Ryan Harnden of Sault Ste. Marie had 20 and Saskatchewan skip Scott Manners dropped out of contention with 16.
In the earlier quarter-finals, it was Middaugh with 24, Savill, Harnden and Manners with 20, Pat Simmons of Alberta and Rick Sawatsky of B.C. with 15 and Northern Ontario’s E.J. Harnden and Territories skip Jamie Koe of Yellowknife with 14.
The Ford Hot Shots shotmaking competition requires the participating curlers to execute six shots: Hit and stay, draw the button, draw the port, raise, hit and roll, and double takeout. Each shot is awarded points on a scale from 0-to-5, rating the success of each.
Second-place finisher Savill won $2,000, while the third-place finisher Harnden received $1,000.
Other past winners have been Greg McAulay and Pat Ryan of British Columbia, Alberta’s Don Bartlett, Randy Ferbey and John Morris, Saskatchewan’s Steve Laycock, Manitoba’s Gould (twice), Northern Ontario’s Mike Coulter, New Brunswick’s Rick Perron, Jeff Lacey and Marc LeCocq, Newfoundland and Labrador’s Mark Nichols, and Ontario’s Ed Werenich.