An extract from the book – Sports the Olympics Forgot.
The Curling Pool international championships have been held in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, since 1921.
This rock ‘em, sock ‘em game was created to add to the allure of curling and is a real favourite with curlers who’ve had a bad day at the office. Curling Pool can combine the precision of curling with the skills of pool to make an event that everyone can appreciate.
Players use the same size rink as now and curl over the same distance. However, the aim of Curling Pool is to sink stones into one of the six ice pockets cut into the edge of the house at each end of the curling rink. There are three holes on each side of the house, worth one, two, and three points – the nearer the hole to the curler, the more difficult it is to sink a stone, so the higher the number of points awarded are. Curlers have to bounce their stones into pockets via at least one other stone for the pocketed stone to count.
Curling Pool takes place over ten ends of the rink and the highest score wins – if there’s a draw then there’s a sudden death shootout.
The creation of Curling Pool is down to the physical attributes of two unique individuals, Willie O’Meahan and Rudi Scherzel, who were curling on the same evening in 1919. Scherzel was cross-eyed and O’Meahan had very warm feet, so that if he stood in one place for too long he wore a depression in the ice. On that day in 1919 they were curling on adjacent rinks in the local curling centre when Scherzel’s stone came into O’Meahan’s rink and scattered the rocks. Two of them landed in depressions caused by O’Meahan’s feet. Jim Jeffries the skip of O’Meahan’s team noticed how the rock gently lipped around the depression before falling in, just like a golf ball going around the edge of the hole on a green – “the effect was mesmerizing, “said Jeffries three years later, “it seemed to take ages to fall into the slight hole in the ice and I knew then that we had a new sport on our hands. As a keen pool player it only made sense to have the same number of holes in the ice as there were on the table. The rest is history.”
The first Jackson Hole Pool Curling contest was held in January 1920 when Jim Jeffries’ team, the J Hole Potters, were the winners and declared World Champions. They beat the Wyoming Wyatt team 27 – 25 in the final in a contest that went to the final rock. Jeffries had saved the match in regulation time by drawing a triple double cannon from the rocks that deposited two of his teams’ stones into pockets for a three point equalizing score. He then won the contest at the third extra end with a cannon from the back of the house that slid slowly into the middle pocket for two points and the victory.
It was only the following year the contest went truly global when a team from Canada, the Ottawa Poolers, entered the competition though they finished last of the six teams. They did produce one of the greatest ever shots witnessed at the contest when Bert Orr hurled his stone down the rink and scored 7 points with a quintuple cannon that resulted in four of his team’s stones scoring points. This was scant consolation for his team as they were 43 – 1 down at the time having been swept to defeat by the brush skills of Herrman “Cream” Dogh. Dogh picked up the line of the shot very quickly and could make a stone fly 20% faster with his heavy brushstrokes; Dogh also specialized in brushing opposition rocks to the edge of the house where they were of little use.
The first multiple winners were the Aspen Potters who won from 1923 – 1925 thanks to the skip Brandy Berton and his tactic of containment. His team were excellent curlers and could balance their rocks on the edge of the pockets and remove similarly placed stones of opponents. Berton’s great tactic was to place his team’s stones between those of his opponent and the pockets so that any contact propelled his stone towards the hole.