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How sweep it is - Gary Ross proves good guys can eventually finish first

Jan 26, 2001 -- Ray Turnbull, witness to about five million curling shots in his day, had to turn away.

"Couldn't bear to watch," says the TSN curling analyst and Brier winner.

"Half the people there couldn't watch."

It was the 2001 Manitoba senior men's final at Winnipeg's Granite club and Turnbull's close friend Gary Ross had to draw the four-foot with his last stone to beat Doug Armour.

He did. And you should've seen what happened.

"They carried him off the ice on their shoulders," Turnbull beams.

"Even the other team, while disappointed, you could almost see in their faces a sense of happiness.

"It was a very unique moment. There wasn't a dry eye in the house. It was one of the warmest sensations I've ever had."

Ross, at 61, was finally going to a Canadian championship.

"It is gratifying," said Ross, after going 12 ends to down Newfoundland 5-3, upping his mark to 7-3 at the national senior men's at the Calgary Curling Club.

"You always want to be able to see how you stack up against the best.

"And we do," he admits, "have quite a following. I guess after having been Cinderellas for so long, people like to see you accomplish something."

There are bridesmaids -- and there is Ross.

To reach the final of the Manitoba men's playdowns even once has always been hugely difficult. Ross did it six times as a skip -- and lost every one. Think about that. He was a Susan Lucci of curling, shut out every year at the Emmys. Alydar, second to Affirmed in all three triple crown races. Legendary trainer Ray Arcel, dragging 12 guys in against Joe Louis and going 0-for-12.

"The Minnesota Vikings?" grins Ross, a fan of that unlucky NFL team. "Hard to believe," he nods.

Hard to remember them all.

Ross lost to Bruce Hudson ('64 and '67), Orest Meleschuk ('72), Don Barr ('74), Doug Harrison ('78) and Mel Logan ('82). Hardest to swallow? Barr, when he was an inch heavy on a last-rock draw.

That wasn't the end of it, either.

Ross went on to lose three Manitoba seniors finals and one masters. Ten in all. Nobody would've blamed him if he'd taken his gear into the backyard and torched it, but that's not him.

"It is hard to lose, but I don't play for that alone," states the Winnipeg contractor, given Manitoba's inaugural Curler of Distinction award last year. "There are so many other things. I play for love of the game. If I were playing for just one reason, I probably would've quit a long time ago."

"You wonder, why?" adds Turnbull, who beat Ross in one final.

"After so many heartbreakers, why would he keep going? But he did always love the game and he never got down on himself or anybody else. He is, in my opinion, what this is all about. And he's such a nice person. Everybody in Manitoba loves him. And I know a guy like (the late Alberta great) Hec Gervais, god bless him, would be ecstatic to see Gary here."

Yes, Lucci got her Emmy at last. Arcel beat Louis with No. 13, Ezzard Charles. And Ross got over the hump. Ironically, he did it against a guy, Armour, who was Logan's third in '82, and had Barr playing for him.

"I got back at two of them," he laughs, "with one shot."

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