Friday, July 17, 2009

Tiger Woods meets the Ailsa Craig

If ye can see Ailsa Craig, it’s gaun tae rain. If ye canny see it, it’s already raining.
– Old Saying

There’s just something magical about the sight of one of the world’s greatest athletes – Tiger Woods – working his magic before the looming presence of curling’s greatest natural landmark.

(Click on the Associated Press photo by Jon Super to magnify the reverence)

Golf’s British Open – or simply The Open Championship – has returned to the Ailsa Craig course at Turnberry after an absence of 17 years.

As a result, everyone in the high-profile golf world are stumbling over each other to lay breathless praise on the Ailsa Craig itself, the monolith of volcanic rock which sits some 12 miles out in the Irish Sea and thus provides glorious background imagery for fellows like Tiger.

A preview story earlier this week by Associated Press writer Paul Newberry summed up the importance of the reverent Ailsa Craig to our sport, curling:

On a sunny day – and that’s how the weather broke around lunchtime – the hill provides the best spot to gaze on the Ailsa Craig, a massive island of rock in the Firth of Clyde that measures two miles around, rises 1,129 feet above the sea and is best known these days for its role in a decidedly different sport – curling.

“Someone was telling me that every curling stone in the world comes from that island,” Geoff Ogilvy said. “That’s got to be a myth.”

Not really. The isle’s unique granite is believed to provide the best material for carving out the stones used by the sweepers on ice. Since curling became a Winter Olympic sport in 1998, every stone got its start on the Ailsa Craig.

Well, actually... as most curling fans know, the Ailsa Craig is the legendary source, but newer quarries in Wales and Finland are providing the curling world with more options, as the Craig supply is gradually depleted.

And we would probably change that last line to read “Since curling became a Winter Olympic sport in 1998, not every stone got its start on the Ailsa Craig.” Anyone agree or disagree?

To sum up all things Ailsa Craig, we suggest the following links:

• the “official” story from Wikipedia

• a cool story from Times writer Lynn Truss

Kays of Scotland, the official stone manufacturers

another outfit, offering Craig jewelry and curling collectables

the hotel in Edinburgh

• the indie rock band from Leeds

• the unknown Canadian village in southwestern Ontario

• the sociology professor in Newfoundland, Canada

And finally, USA Curling is auctioning off an authentic Ailsa Craig curling stone that will be autographed by the 2010 U.S. Olympic and Paralympic curling team members. To bid on this one-of-a-kind item, search for “Team USA Autographed Curling Stone” on eBay... or just click here.

Anything else for a Friday?

• A reminder of today’s Rockin’ The Gold curling fundraiser in Toronto, which we told you about here. Looks like blogTO has a promo writeup, too ...

• Were the Canadians a wee bit too intense at the recent Tropicurl summer spiel in Pittsburgh?

• Curling in Corner Brook, Newfoundland may be wiped out this coming season ...

• And finally... is this what the kids are doing these days?

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