Note: This is an updated article originally published on April 6, 2017.
Before the 2015 Players’ Championship, Team Jacobs second E.J. Harnden said his club had joked around feeling like they were the Phil Mickelson of curling having yet to win a major. Although they had a Brier, a world silver medal and an Olympic gold on their resumes, a victory in the Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling had eluded them up to that point.
Third Ryan Fry had won a Grand Slam before at the 2010 National, but that was when he was playing with a different Brad — Mr. Gushue. Jacobs, Harnden and lead Ryan Harnden were still searching for No. 1.
Mickelson shook the “major monkey” off his back in his 13th year on the PGA Tour at the 2004 Masters (“Lefty” has now won five majors) while Team Jacobs’s fortunes changed at the 2015 Players’ Championship, the marquee event in the elite series, at Ryerson’s Mattamy Athletic Centre in Toronto.
Jacobs (4-1) and Winnipeg’s Mike McEwen (5-0) were the hottest teams of the week topping their respective pools to earn automatic berths to the semifinals. McEwen defeated hometown hero John Epping of Toronto 7-3 to advance to the championship game while Jacobs scored three in the eighth end to slip past Brendan Bottcher’s team 6-5. Interesting to note: Bottcher had to return home to Edmonton to finish university after the round-robin portion and legendary curler Wayne Middaugh filled in for the stretch.
McEwen beat Jacobs in a Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling final earlier that season taking the National in Jacobs’s own backyard of Sault Ste. Marie, Ont. For McEwen, a Players’ Championship victory would not only cap a remarkable tour season having already earned eight titles, it would also complete a career Grand Slam (win all four majors at least once).
The final was evenly matched with McEwen opening with a single and Jacobs mirroring with a point in the second end. The teams exchanged pairs of points in four and five to keep pace. McEwen blanked two consecutive ends to retain the hammer for the final frame with the score tied 3-3.
McEwen needed to draw for the win against a Jacobs counter, but his rock was over-swept and slid just past the target allowing Jacobs to steal the Players’ Championship.
“It’s one of those shots where I really expected Mike to make it, but knew it was going to be a tough shot because the ice was getting a little bit frosty, a little bit fudgy, and as a sweeper I know for myself that’s a tough one to judge,” E.J. Harnden said after the game. “It’s unfortunate to win that way and we feel for Mike, that was a tough one. I thought he threw it really well and the shot was made, but in the game of curling you’ve got to take it any way you can get it and sometimes it comes out a miss. Fortunately this time it went our way.”
“I just couldn’t say enough good things about Mike and his team,” Harnden added. “I think they’ve had a phenomenal season, we’re going to play them a ton in the future, they push us to work harder and get better, and they’re a great team.”
It may not have finished how they imagined it but at the end of the day, they were Grand Slam champions.
“A fantastic curling season for us,” Jacobs said. “It’s the best we’ve ever played on the cashspiel circuit. This is the most money we’ve ever won. It’s something that we’ve always tried to get better at. For some reason, we always seem to show up for playdowns and the Season of Champions events but not so much the World Curling Tour events. I’m really proud of the way we played throughout the entire world curling events this year, throughout the Grand Slam series, and to pick up this last win is just huge for us.”
The victory also clinched Team Jacobs the Pinty’s Cup, which is awarded to the men’s and women’s teams with the most points earned over the course of the season. The $75,000 bonus was secondary to capturing their first title in the series though.
“We really wanted to win our first Grand Slam. … That was the one thing kind of missing on our resume,” Harnden said. “It’s one of those things when you win, the other things come with it. First and foremost, we wanted to win our first Grand Slam and everything else beyond that is gravy.”