GUEST COLUMN: Rare and historic curling medal kept locked away in safe

The MacKenzie Medal. It reads: “Presented to The Sarnia Curling Club by Hon. A. Mackenzie for annual competition according to rule.” Submitted Image

Jeff Yates

The Sarnia Golf & Curling Club holds an individual curling competition each year for one of the oldest — if not the oldest — curling trophy in Ontario.

Jeff Yates

The Mackenzie Medal was presented to the Sarnia Curling Club in 1878 by the Hon. Alexander Mackenzie, the second Prime Minister of Canada, and is awarded annually to the men’s individual shot-making champion.

Mackenzie moved to Sarnia with his wife in 1847 and remained a resident until his death in 1892. He was also a curler, and is known to have previously curled in Ottawa and Kingston, the home of Canada’s second oldest curling club.

The future prime minister was passionate about the game, which was then played on swept-off sections of Sarnia Bay. His generous donation has been presented continuously to club winners for the past 140 years.

Today, the original Mackenzie Medal is kept securely locked away in a safe, and the award has been presented in the form of a plaque since 1984.

Individual shot-making competitions are all run the same way, and follow a list of specific types of shots to test a player’s full range of skill, finesse and hitting ability. A number of them are comparable to the highly difficult shots seen during televised curling events.

There are nine shots in total and each is attempted four times — twice using the in-turn rotation and twice using the out-turn rotation. They include draws, guards, hits, hit-and-rolls, raising, wicking-in, and shots through ports.

In addition to the Mackenzie Medal, The Sarnia Golf & Curling Club holds three other shot-making competitions: the McGibbon Medal for Day Ladies has been presented annually since 1932, the Reid Medal for Women began in 1969, and the Buchser Medal for Juniors was launched in 1990.

By the end of these three-hour competitions each participant will have thrown 36 rocks, twice as many as during a regular game. Time for a drink!

The winner of the historic MacKenzie Medal this year was Mark Woolston, his third career MacKenzie Medal victory. Diane Yurkewich is the Reid Medal champion and Brett Howard the Buchser Medal winner.

The Day Ladies McGibbon Medal hadn’t yet been played by press time, but it’s sure to be an event filled with great shots and camaraderie.

The oldest recorded reference to curling in Sarnia dates to 1866. After its early years of being played on the frozen bay, an outdoor rink was created on London Road in 1870.

Since then, several structures have housed indoor rinks, including a two-sheet rink at 180 Christina St. S., another opposite St. Andrew’s Church on North Christina Street, a six-sheet rink on Euphemia Street, and another six-sheet rink adjacent to the old Children’s Arena on Christina.

Jeff Yates is the Associate Golf Professional and Assistant Curling Draw Master at the Sarnia Golf & Curling Club