PORT McNEILL—While she stood in the lounge of Broughton Curling Club watching the finals of the Bill Gurney Memorial Men’s Bonspiel Sunday, Deb Balcke was asked which team she was rooting for in the A final.
“Oh, no,” she said, throwing up her hands. “I’m Switzerland.”
The options to her professed neutrality were to back her husband Mike or her son, Keith, the local club curlers who squared off in a rare father-son matchup after battling their way through their respective halves of the bracket.
“It’s hard to do,” said Keith Balcke. “First, you’ve got to get drawn into different sides of the bracket so you don’t meet up earlier. Then you’ve got to win, of course.”
Until the next-to-last rock of the A final, father and son both managed the feat. That’s when Keith was unable to pull off a degree-of-difficulty, double-carom attempt to clear two stones Mike Balcke had deposited in the house behind a veritable regiment of guards.
That allowed Mike to pocket his hammer and bragging rights for a year with a 7-5 victory.
“He had a circus shot at the end, and that was a tough spot to be in,” said Mike Balcke, who was joined by Clint Fiske, Matt Merritt and Ray Abdai.
“They got a couple rocks buried, and I couldn’t get ’em out,” Keith shrugged. “It was a good game, though. That steal on (end) two was the problem.”
Mike Balcke grabbed a routine point in the opening end by taking Keith out of a wide-open house, then stole two more in the second when Keith flew a takeout attempt past his target.
Keith was able to recover with a three-point pickup in the third, using a nifty wide curl with his hammer to tie the match 3-3. But the teams traded points the rest of the way, and dad was left with the hammer in the final end.
It was the first loss of the season for Keith’s rink, which included Don Riehl, Nick Russell and Matt Tjepkema.
Somewhat ironically, Mike Balcke secured the clinching points in the final end despite all the clutter in and in front of the 12-foot circle.
“With the hammer I was going to play it clean,” said Mike, who did just that throughout much of the final. “You don’t want to junk it up, because then anything can happen.”
Port Hardy’s Doug McCorquodale claimed the B final over Port McNeill veteran Doug Parke, forcing handshakes after taking a 6-2 lead into the seventh end and making the clinching steal.
McCorquodale’s rink included Mike DesRochers, Brendan Brown and Mike McCulley. Parke curled with Jens Russe, Mel Ward and Doug Anweiller, with Tom Baker filling in for Russe in the final.
Port McNeill’s Ron Downey built a big lead and held off a late charge by Courtenay’s Brent Aitken to win the C Final, 6-5. Aitken, trailing 6-3 in the final end, placed three stones in the house with a partial guard, but Downey’s skip Kevin Weinreich of Nanaimo managed to take out one of the stones and prevent an extra tiebreaking end. His rink also included Tim Chester and Paul Bastarache.
Coincidentally, Aitken was joined at the bonspiel by another Courtenay rink skipped by his son, Brad Aitken.
Like the Balckes, the Aitkens squared off head-to-head last weekend, but it came in a C bracket loser-out match Saturday afternoon.
Asked if he and his son had ever squared off in the A final of a bonspiel, Brent did not take long to consider.
“No,” he said. “We’ve won an A final curling together, but we never played against each other in one.”
The Balckes’ unusual father-son matchup created the expected associated jokes. After the two shook hands and exited the ice, one wag in the lobby asked, “Did Balcke win?”
And before the teams even took the ice, Keith Balcke offered a visitor some investment advice.
“Are you a betting man?” he asked. “Bet on Balcke.”
For one weekend, at least, that was easy money.
2012 Bill Gurney Memorial
At Broughton Curling Club
First draw: Doug McCorquodale d. Tom Baker; Brent Aitken d. Tasos Baroutis; Keith Balcke d. Doug Parke; Brad Zealand d. Ron Downey.
Quarterfinals: Mike Balcke d. McCorquodale; G-Spot d. Brent Aitken; K. Balcke d. Breakfast Club; Zealand d. Brad Aitken.
Semifinals: M. Balcke d. G-Spot; K. Balcke d. Zealand.
A Final: Mike Balcke d. Keith Balcke, 7-5
Quarterfinals: Baker d. Baroutis; Parke d. Downey, McCorquodale d. Brent Aitken; Breakfast Club d. Brad Aitken.
Semifinals: Parke d. Baker; McCorquodale d. Breakfast Club.
B Final: McCorquodale 7, Parke 2
Loser-out: Downey d. Baroutis; Brent Aitken d. Brad Aitken.
Semifinals: Downey d. Zealand; Brent Aitken d. G-Spot.
C Final: Downey d. Brent Aitken, 6-5.