Keith Balcke calls for his sweepers to back off during the A final of the Bill Gurney Memorial men's open bonspiel Sunday at Broughton Curling Club in Port McNeill.

Keith Balcke calls for his sweepers to back off during the A final of the Bill Gurney Memorial men's open bonspiel Sunday at Broughton Curling Club in Port McNeill.

Senior retains title after family faceoff

Keith Balcke faces father Mike Balcke in the A final of the Bill Gurney Memorial Men’s bonspiel.

PORT McNEILL—A year ago, Keith Balcke thought he had come as close as possible to beating his father, Mike Balcke, while still coming up short in the A final of the Bill Gurney Memorial Men’s bonspiel.

Last weekend, he learned to his chagrin that he could come even closer — and still come up short.

Trailing 5-4 going into the eighth and final end of the 2013 Gurney Memorial, Mike Balcke parlayed his hammer into a tying point, then watched as his son’s own hammer in an extra mini-end rubbed a guard and left père Balcke with his second straight A title in the Broughton Curling Club event.

“Wasn’t that a classic,” Mike said as he left the ice shaking his head. “(Keith) had the shot; it was just a hair off.”

The same hair’s breadth proved the difference in forcing the tiebreaking extra end. Mike’s final skip’s stone in the eighth clearly stood as the counting rock, but his second stone and Keith’s closest rock were so equal that they had to be measured.

As the measure swung from Keith’s rock it passed Mike’s with a barely discernible gap, leaving dad with a single point and the match tied 5-5.

“Oh, we’re talking about a whisker,” Mike Balcke’s lead, Ray Abdai, said, stroking his beard for emphasis. The rink included second Kevin Polkinghorne and Balcke’s longtime partner, Lee Mitchell.

It was the second straight year Mike and Keith squared off in the final, and the second time it came down to the final stone. But it was actually the third straight A final appearance for Keith, who has finished second each time.

This time, the rinks were content to leave the house open through the mini end, with just a single red guard out in front. With his skip’s stone, Mike drew around the guard to the button. Keith followed by attempting the same draw for a takeout, but nicked the guard and slid past the target.

“I just turned it in,” the younger Balcke, who curled with Nick Russell, Don Riehl and Matt Tjepkema. “It’s getting a little old.”

Thing were nearly as close in the B Final, which pit a pair of rivals from Port Hardy’s Fort Rupert Curling Club. Colin Hunko took a one-shot lead into the eighth end and held on for the win when rival Brad Zealand’s try for a two-point pickup with his final stone misfired.

“I choked,” Zealand said bluntly, though, to be accurate, he faced a daunting final shot with Hunko counting near the button and a Zealand rock tucked protectively behind.

Hunko was partnered with Hank Bood, Brendan Brown and Tom Russell. Zealand, who was scheduled to face Hunko again this week in the rinks’ first meeting in league play, was joined by Mark Hutchinson, Norm Campbell and Joe Godmaire.

As the A and B finals neared their white-knuckled conclusions, the C finalists had long since retired to the lounge. Port Hardy’s Barry Evans never could get any traction against Campbell River’s Brent Aitken, who rode a couple of big ends to a 6-0 lead through three ends. When Aitken came up with another counting stone in a crowded house in the fourth end, Evans and rinkmates Brent Borg, Rod Romas and Greg Smith offered congratulatory handshakes.

 

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