Kirk Muyres exceeding own expectations in first season as skip

Kirk Muyres delivers a stone during the Tour Challenge Tier 2 men's final on Nov. 11, 2018, in Thunder Bay, Ont. (Anil Mungal)

NORTH BATTLEFORD, Sask. — It wasn’t supposed to come this easy for Kirk Muyres. To be honest, it actually hasn’t, Muyres has just made it look easy.

After several years playing supportive roles, Muyres made the switch to skipping his own squad this season. Muyres was expecting a huge learning curve ahead while making the adjustment but was committed to putting in the necessary work to make it back into the elite level. It’s paid off for Muyres already as his team went undefeated through November’s Tour Challenge Tier 2 event in Thunder Bay, Ont., to secure a spot here at the Meridian Canadian Open.

“We had a slow start and we were building and building,” Muyres said after winning the Tour Challenge Tier 2. “It’s my first year skipping so it’s so tough to know if it was going to come together for us. The last few weeks it just started to and then today we just put on a dominating performance. It’s pretty nice to have these guys stick by me when I was learning to skip and now I’ve kind of got there but we can always get better from here.”

Team Muyres capped their 7-0 run with a convincing 8-3 win over Team McDonald in the final. The fact the Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling major just happens to take place up the road from their home base of Saskatoon only makes the reward that much sweeter.

“This one’s marked on the calendar,” Muyres said. “We want to play a Slam in Saskatchewan any time we can and it’s only about an hour from home. To get to play one there is awesome. We obviously can’t wait and hopefully, we can put on a good show there.”

Team Muyres’ promotion into the elite ranks actually came one event early as their solid start to the season with runner-up results at the Medicine Hat Curling Classic (Medicine Hat, Alta.) and DEKALB Superspiel (Morris, Man.) ensured them a berth into last month’s Boost National as well.

“It’s huge and it’s never-ending,” Muyres said. “We’re always trying to get better and we’re always going to be working hard. That’s what we like to do but it feels really good to just sit back now and enjoy this win. We went 7-0 here, we went 6-1 [in Morris], we’re playing some really good curling and that’s the most fun part is when you can sit back and just dominate. That’s fun curling so hopefully, we can continue to do that.”

Muyres made a name for himself as a vice skip throwing third stones for Saskatchewan at the 2007 Canada Winter Games with skip Josh Heidt and the 2011 Canadian junior curling championships with skip Braeden Moskowy. His team finished the 2011 Canadian juniors with a perfect 13-0 record to represent Canada at the world juniors where they came in fourth place.

Kirk joined his older brother Dallan Muyres on Steve Laycock’s club and represented Saskatchewan four times at the Tim Hortons Brier. They also finished runner-up to Team Gushue at the 2014 Canadian Open in Yorkton, Sask., but turned the tables on the Newfoundland and Labrador crew in the bronze-medal match later that season at the Brier.

Team Laycock broke up last year following the conclusion of the Olympic cycle and the Muyres Bros. stuck together adding another pair of siblings, twins no less, in Kevin and Dan Marsh, who previously played with skip Colton Flasch. (Trent Knapp, who threw lead stones on Team Flasch, is filling in during the Meridian Canadian Open with Dallan away on his honeymoon.)

“Dallan and I have known Kevin and Dan since we were about 15 and we’ve always been friends,” Muyres said earlier this season during a tournament in Oakville, Ont. “It was a fun idea to get together with them knowing we’d have fun on the road, be honest with each other and create a really good team. That was the biggest thing for us and it’s slowly coming together now. It’s not the easiest thing in the world to build a new team but slowly and surely we’ll get there.”

Those years with Team Laycock prepared Muyres for what it would take to skip at the Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling level and growing pains were anticipated. The 28-year-old Muyres knew he needed to ease his way into his new role as he ventured into uncharted waters considering he hadn’t skipped at the men’s level before.

“Oh man, the first couple games out on the ice I felt like Bambi out there,” he said with a laugh. “It was totally different. I haven’t seen the house like that in 10 or 15 years. It’s a totally different dynamic.”

Fortunately for Muyres, his teammates hung in there through those difficult first few games to let him learn from his mistakes and develop.

“The guys I have, have been great,” he said. “They knew when we got into this that I was the guy they wanted to lead and they’re allowing me to do that and allowing me to make mistakes and they’re supporting me in that process. That process is also going to take maybe five years until I get where I need to be as a skip but again, go and play and make that learning curve quick. …

“For me, the biggest thing is to learn to call the game creatively to a point that allows us to win. The shot-making sort of thing is a lot of the same, it’s just a little more pressure, which is good, but it’s really all about building that gameplan around something we can build and be successful with. That’s really what we’re trying to navigate through right now.”

Muyres has emerged a formidable threat in mixed doubles as well, something that also happened unexpectedly and took him by surprise. He partnered with Laura Walker to capture the Canadian mixed doubles championship and world bronze medal last year. The pair also claimed the inaugural Curling World Cup mixed doubles title in September.

“It just kind of happened and then I kind of liked it and we were pretty good,” Muyres said. “Now we get these awesome opportunities and it’s fun. Laura is a great partner and we win a lot of games. We’re still learning at that game; It’s still new for us. … I never expected to get the opportunities I’d get in the mixed doubles portion of curling but I’m just going to take it and run with it because it’s been a boatload of fun.”

Muyres kicks off the Meridian Canadian Open taking on Toronto’s Team Epping in Tuesday night’s opening draw at North Battleford Civic Centre.

NOTES: The Meridian Canadian Open is the fifth event and third major of the 2018-19 Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling season featuring 16 of the top men’s teams and 16 of the top women’s teams from around the globe. … Broadcast coverage begins Thursday on Sportsnet. … The combined purse is $250,000 with the winning teams earning $30,000 plus berths to the season-ending Humpty’s Champions Cup.

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