SAULT STE. MARIE, Ont. — Scotland’s Bruce Mouat was on the money to make history in the Boost National.
Mouat downed Chang-Min Kim of South Korea 9-4 during Sunday’s final at the Essar Centre to capture his first career Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling championship. The 23-year-old Mouat became the youngest men’s skip to win a title in the series.
Compatriot Eve Muirhead earned the Players’ Championship women’s title in 2013 at age 22. John Morris previously held the men’s record when he claimed the Players’ Championship in 2004 at age 25.
The team of Mouat, third Grant Hardie, second Bobby Lammie and lead Hammy McMillan Jr. collected $30,000 from the $125,000 men’s purse plus a berth in the season-ending Humpty’s Champions Cup taking place April 24-29, 2018, at Calgary’s WinSport Arena.
How did Mouat describe his historic victory?
“Average,” he said before bursting into laughter. “Nah, it’s really good. I’m really excited. It’s so tough it’s unbelievable really just the competition we’ve had. We’ve played so well and hopefully, it’s a sign of things to come.”
Mouat added it’s amazing as well his team is the first Scottish men’s squad to take a title in the series.
“We had so much depth in Scotland and still we have lots of teams that are doing really well,” he said. “Just to be able to say I was the first skip and we’re the first team to win from Scotland is a great feeling as well.”
Kim opened with the hammer but couldn’t convert as Mouat made a sharpshooting skip’s steal. Mouat made two perfect draws freezing on his first at the back of the four-foot circle and grabbed a piece of the button for shot rock with his second by missing Kim’s rock by the slimmest of margins. Kim came up short on his last to concede one.
Take two worked out better for Kim, who took two points in the second end. The third stanza didn’t go well for Mouat. After clipping a guard with his first skip stone, Mouat faced two on his last and hit one but rolled just an inch too far in the four-foot circle. A measurement gave the steal to Kim and a 3-1 advantage.
Mouat wrestled away the lead in the fourth with a remarkable shot looking at a slim chance at tapping out Kim’s hidden counter for three and pulled it off.
“We didn’t have the best setup but we managed to put Kim under a bit of pressure,” Mouat said. “He had to play a good double with his last and came close to making it roll a bit further back. We managed to have the same shot as I did with my first one and we ticked it back for three. It was a nice controlled weight and I played it. It was heavy in first three ends so they told me to cut a bit off and focus on the line.”
That put Mouat up by one and the momentum shifted for good in the fifth. After a flash on his first, Mouat made no mistake with his second to kick aside Kim’s shot stone and sit one. Kim came up light on his last as third Se-Hyeon Seong had to jump in and sweep it into the house but couldn’t pull the string far enough.
“We flashed a hit but managed to get the opportunity to play the exact same shot and made it that time,” Mouat said. “It put a bit more pressure on Kim again and came up a bit short so the steal in the fifth end was a big game-changer.”
Mouat was magical again in the sixth firing on all cylinders making a cross-house double takeout followed by a double raise hit to sit one clearly in the house and another on the doorstep. Kim was forced to draw and landed at the top of the button to stay in it.
“I played pretty much three shots in a row in the out-turn half stone or thinner than that,” Mouat said. “Even in the fifth end I was playing those shots so we knew I was throwing them good. We just tightened up the ice and gave it to the sweepers. Then with that second shot, the double raise, it was just tick-tight ice and just gave it to the sweepers again and they held it.”
It was handshakes after seven though as Kim looked at three and his rock rubbed off the top one to lie exposed and Mouat punched it out to score four to ice the match.
Both Mouat and Kim were playing in their first career Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling final. Team Kim was competing in its first Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling event ever, in fact, and became the first Asian-based crew to reach a final in the series. They captured the Pacific-Asia curling championship just last week in Australia and will represent the host nation at the upcoming 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
Mouat has built quite the impressive resume already with a world junior championship in 2016 and a Winter Universiade gold medal earlier this year. He made his Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling debut at the 2016 Humpty’s Champions Cup.
Team Mouat retooled its roster this season with cousins Hardie and McMillan Jr. joining Mouat and Lammie. Hardie previously skipped his own team while McMillan played with Tom Brewster and won the Scottish national championship last year. Two-time world champion and Olympic silver medallist David Murdoch, who works as a technical and tactical consultant for British Curling, joined Team Mouat coach Alan Hannah behind the boards this week. Murdoch retired from competitive curling after last season.
Mouat defeated Kim in back-to-back finals in Oakville, Ont., at the Stu Sells Oakville Tankard and Biosteel Fall Classic in September.
“We gelled really well at the start of the season,” Mouat said. “We played really good competitions in Oakville. The shimmy over the summer period was up in the air for a while because we didn’t know what the Olympic team was and then when we found that out we just got in contact with each other and said this was the team we wanted to form. It’s gone amazingly so far.”
Mouat went 2-2 in round-robin play and then played the “giant killer” role bouncing defending champion and hometown hero Brad Jacobs in a tiebreaker to advance, 2016 world champion Kevin Koe of Calgary in the quarterfinals and Winnipeg’s Mike McEwen in the semifinals.
Kim and Seong are supported up front by second Eun-Su Oh and lead Ki-Bok Lee. They went 3-1 through the round-robin to qualify, defeated Winnipeg’s Reid Carruthers in the quarterfinals and came back to beat Toronto’s John Epping in the semifinals. Kim scored three in the eighth to force an extra end and stole in OT when Epping missed the angle on a raise takeout attempt.
The Boost National is the third tournament and second major of the Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling season.
Winnipeg’s Jennifer Jones and Casey Scheidegger of Lethbridge, Alta., meet for the Boost National women’s championship at 4 p.m. ET. Watch on Sportsnet, Sportsnet NOW (Canada) or gsoc.yaretv.com (international).
Coming up next is the Meridian Canadian Open running Jan. 16-21, 2018, at the Encana Arena in Camrose, Alta. Visit Camrosegsoc.goigniter.com or call 1-780-678-2868 for tickets.