Brad Gushue, Mark Nichols, Brett Gallant and Geoff Walker celebrate with the Players' Championship trophy in Toronto. (Photo: Anil Mungal)

Gushue wins Players’ Championship to complete career Grand Slam

April 17, 2016, 7:31 PM

TORONTO — How badly did Brad Gushue want to win the Players’ Championship?

Having already clinched the Rogers Grand Slam Cup as the overall season champion — carrying a $75,000 bonus — the St. John’s, N.L., was willing to hand over the cash to opponent Brad Jacobs to win the elusive Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling major.

Jacobs, of Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., wouldn’t budge as the defending champ needed the victory to secure a berth into the season-ending Humpty’s Champions Cup.

Gushue, who had finished runner-up at the event twice previously, didn’t need to part ways with the prize money as he defeated Jacobs 5-4 during Sunday’s final to complete a career Grand Slam earning a grand total of $101,500 by claiming his sixth Pinty’s GSOC title in the 6ix.

“I think they wanted to get into the Champions Cup but we wanted to finish the Slam,” Gushue said with a smile. “That was important for us. That was our goal coming into this week and really this year. This was one that we wanted to win and to finish it off and do it is pretty nice. I’m very proud of our team. We’ve had a successful year anyway. We can look back and this has been a really successful year with the exception of one game at the Brier [losing in the final] it could have been an absolutely mind-blowing year.”

The team of Gushue, third Mark Nichols, second Brett Gallant, and lead Geoff Walker have had a Golden State Warriors-esque season on the Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling circuit winning three titles having also captured the National and Elite 10 and finishing runner-up at the Tour Challenge Tier 1 and the Meridian Canadian Open. Through six events on the year, they hold a jaw-dropping 34-5 win-loss record including a 14-game winning streak running the table at the past two events.

“I think from a strategic point we don’t get ourselves in too much trouble and when we do we’ve been bailing early enough,” Gushue said. “We haven’t given up many steals, which I think is the key. You catch the odd deuce here or there and you can win some games.

“To win as many as we did we have to have some luck and we’ve had some teams that have played probably under their ability. So we’ve had some luck definitely to get as many wins as we’ve had but I think we’ve also put ourselves into a good position.”

Gushue opened with the hammer and landed on the lid with his last shot of the first end to settle for a single and a 1-0 lead. He froze perfectly on the button and under cover with his last in the second and Jacobs threw his final stone of the end away to concede the steal.

Jacobs bounced back putting the pressure on in the third to get a deuce and tie it 2-2. The 2014 Olympic gold medallist Jacobs forced the 2006 Olympic champ Gushue to one in the fourth, but was also held to a single in five as he faced four counters in the house on his draw shot to keep it tight at 3-3.

Gushue secured the lead with a deuce in the sixth. Jacobs sat shot rock prior to his last in the seventh with a chance to knot it back up but came up light on his draw stopping short of the rings to only get one and give up the hammer coming home.

It was a victory lap for Gushue as he kept the house clean in eight.

“Anytime you get a situation like that, that’s pretty relaxing,” Gushue said. “I was prepared to have to draw to the button or draw to the four-foot. Geoff made a good tick and Brett made an incredible double and once he made the double I knew the game was ours unless we did something really stupid. It was a nice way to finish. Tight game. Those guys are so tough to beat because they’re tough right from lead to skip. Fortunately, we came out on the right side. Yeah, pretty pumped.”

The team of Jacobs, third Ryan Fry, second E.J. Harnden, and lead Ryan Harden were competing in their third consecutive Players’ Championship final. Jacobs also finished runner-up to Kevin Martin in 2014 and defeated Mike McEwen a year ago to earn his first career Grand Slam title.

Earlier Sunday, Eve Muirhead of Scotland topped Winnipeg’s Jennifer Jones 9-6 to win her third Players’ Championship women’s title in four years.

The season-ending Humpty’s Champions Cup runs April 27 to May 1 in Sherwood Park, Alta., and Gushue said it’ll be a nice bonus after finally winning the Players’.

“I’ve put a lot into this week. I wanted to win this badly,” he said. “It’s been a long year. I’m not saying we’re going to go out and mail it in by any means but I’m sure it’ll be a little bit more relaxed. We’re probably going to have a little bit more fun there and try to cap the year off.

“It would certainly be nice to win the first Champions Cup too. We’ll be ready to play but it definitely will be the cherry on top. This is the cake for sure for us this year. This is a big win and means a lot to us.”