McHarg leads the way in first week
SUTHERLAND Province's curlers slid into action last week, with the skips who are expected to spearhead the league challenge all beginning their campaign with wins before a surprise name occupied first place in the first table of the season.
John McHarg, with a refreshed Alness rink of Mike Stainkie, Calum McRae and Russell Mackay, opened his season with two shots and then took the next five ends to crush Duncan Clark's Highland Curling Trust first rink 9-2. McHarg's next tie is against Brora, so that will be a stiffer test.
On shots difference the Alness rink, with a +7 margin, sits top, ahead of Richard MacKenzie (Locheye 1) on +6. He was uncompromising in beating his brother-in-law Nigel Murray (Rogart) 9-3 and just below the experienced Locheye skip is his son and defending champion Alan MacKenzie (Locheye 2) with +5 after his 9-4 win over Ian Mackay, back skipping for Dornoch.
Neil Gillies, in charge of the Highland trust's second rink, was the fifth unbeaten skip, ending his tie against Alan Munro's farmers with a double and a 6-3 result. Brora's Roy Watson welcomed back to his 2019 knockout cup winning rink the only Brora curler still playing regularly, Joan Young, who joined Denise Ross (Dornoch) and Val MacKay (Rogart) in the late win over Helen Lyon (Loch Fleet). Lyon, after a four-shot opening end loss, drew level then went 5-4 in front from single and a follow-up four-shot second end. But a poor middle section saw Loch Fleet go 5-9 behind before a sterling effort in the last end, three shots, allowed the Brora rink to escape with both points from their 9-8 result.
First end results:
J McHarg (Alness) 9, D Clark (NHCT 1) 2; N Gillie (NHCT2) 6, A Munro (Ross /Suther Farmers) 3; R Watson (Brora) 9, H Lyon (Loch Fleet) 8; R MacKenzie (Locheye 1) 9, N Murray (Rogart) 3; A MacKenzie (Locheye 2) 9, S Gardiner (Dornoch) 4.
* Locheye skip Richard MacKenzie, secretary to the Royal club's Area 13 provinces with the nucleus of the team he hopes to take to national senior events this season, won the area's first bonspiel of the season at Elgin Ice Centre last Saturday.
MacKenzie's rink was made up of Sandy Renfrew (Inverness), Mike McInnes (Nairn) and club member Val MacKay playing lead, and they got the massive boost of an 18-1 result over a Moray Virtual club from their first game then followed up with a 10-7 victory over the Muir of Ord rink skipped by Finlay MacKenzie featuring Fraser Parr, Susan Vaughan and, guesting for Muir of Ord, the area president Iain Mackay (Dornoch).
Locheye's four points and plus-20 shots won easily from a Bank of Scotland (Moray Province rink) skipped by David Paterson who finished with three points after a peel with the Highland club and a 7-6 win over Inverness CC.
Highland CC, skipped by Mike Jack with Bob Jack, Sammy Clarke and Alan Cowen, were the Low Road winners by virtue of their of their 7-4 win over the Nairn ladies. The Moray Virtual curlers and wheelchair curlers were taking part in their first Area 13 bonspiel.