Jan 4 2013 by Alison Lowson, Perthshire Advertiser
Pete Loudon knows what it is like to be crowned a Perth Masters champion.
The Perth curler featured in rinks led to victory in the 1990s by Hammy McMillan and Gordon Muirhead.
But he has swapped playing for chairing the £17,000 Mercure Perth Masters 2013, which got under way at the Dewars Centre last night.
Curling fans can take in a star-studded 32-strong international field today and over the weekend, with the final starting at 3pm on Sunday.
Pete said: “It is shaping-up for a superb weekend of top-class curling with one of the top purses in European curling on the line. The winning rink will head home with a cheque for £6000 and the rink to beat is Mike McEwen’s Canadians who have won the last two Masters titles.”
Welcoming ongoing sponsorship from the Mercure City Mills Hotel and support sponsorship from Perth and Kinross Council, Live Active Leisure and Perth Honda, he revealed plans for the Perth event to become one of the world Majors, emulating the world of golf and tennis.
Pete explained: “We are hoping to build on the reputation of the Masters. There is talk of a series of Majors, taking in North America, Europe and Asia.
“This could emerge on the back of sponsorship from phone giants Rogers in Canada, with a $1 million dollar prize for any rink managing to win four Grand Slam events.
“At present they are all in Canada but that could change.
“If there is to be a curling Major in Europe we want it to be held here in Perth. The history of the Perth Masters gives us a head start.
“Curling is growing in Asia so that also has to be a possibility.”
Provost Liz Grant has welcomed the return of high profile curling to the Fair City.
She said: “Whilst curling is a very popular sport across the world, it is very much a traditional Scottish winter sport, and over the past 500 years has had great historic links to Perth and Kinross.
“The Mercure Perth Masters tournament is usually the first sporting event of the year, and with its large delegation of overseas players and supporters, it truly gives Perth a great international start to the year.
This year’s tournament marks the 20th anniversary of sponsorship from the Mercure City Mills Hotel.
General manager Chris Charalambous said: “I am told this is probably the longest running curling sponsorship in Europe and we are delighted to support such a prestigious sporting event.
“Back in 1994, Dave Smith, Graeme Connal, Peter Smith and David Hay were the winning team and we are now looking forward to crowning the 20th Mercure Masters Curling Champions.
“There will be top class curling on show. The last few years’ finals have given us breathtaking drama and plenty to interest spectators coming along to the ice rink. Hopefully it will be the same this weekend.”