I never liked curling.
My dad played and, honestly, the only reason I went to see him play on Sunday afternoons was so he would drive me to my friend’s hockey game that evening.
Then, 1991 unfolded. This young curler with a great head of hair — the same golden color of wheat fields surrounding his home town of Lougheed in central Alberta —took the game by storm for the next two decades.
Sure, his play calling and the way he rocked the house — you know, the high hard one, right down the middle, almost sending stones into the next sheet of ice — was something to watch.
But the thing that got me, and still does to this day, is the way Kevin Martin talks. Watch his eyebrows as they go up and down in perfect rhythm as his voice changes. Or, cutting words from sentences but still delivered them in an entertaining an educational way. Or, the way he shrugs his shoulders when he can’t explain why something happened but has a burning desire to find out why.
Listening to his interviews on television was a highlight for me. It also taught me how the game brings strategy and skill together.
Martin turned this non-curling observer into a fan, hungry to watch the game and then, thanks to him, see it evolve into the highly competitive sport on a global basis.
So, when I read The Sun’s Terry Jones column Tuesday about Martin being inducted into the World Hall of Fame, I sat back and smiled.
Couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.
I first met Martin in the spring of 1991 over lunch at the Royal Glenora. Martin was asked to play in The Longest Day of Golf with three other characters. As he ate his Caesar salad, he spoke in that same engaging tone of voice.
When we said farewell that afternoon, Martin drew his right hand back and then locked into a firm handshake. It’s something he still greets me with today.
For the next four years, Martin was the first person at Victoria Golf Course just after 4:30 a.m. standing on the tee, driver in one hand a cup of coffee in the other.
“Best day of the year, boys,” he would say seconds before the first shot of the day. “More fun than Christmas Day.”
And then, for the 17 hours and over 200 holes of golf, away they went, raising tens of thousands for the Canadian Cancer Society.
Over the years I’ve seen Martin in many charity golf tournaments. In fact, I even went with him to Fairview, where his wife’s uncle had a charity golf tournament.
Martin was his typical engaging self, a laugh always a heartbeat away.
His curling accomplishments will be highlighted by sportswriters far more well versed than me.
Martin’s induction is another sterling example how the world’s best at whatever they do — sports, entertainment or other notable skills — are, perhaps, even better people than their talent.
And that’s an accomplishment to be royally celebrated.
Wonderful thing to see.