Considering the strength of the field, Scott McDonald would have done well just to make the playoffs at the Ontario curling championship.
He did much more than that. McDonald took out some of the sport's biggest names over the week and put an exclamation mark on his effort with an emphatic 8-2 rout of John Epping in Sunday's final.
"We just rode a high the entire week," McDonald said in a phone interview. "Fortunately for us we were able to perform when it mattered the most."
The result gave the London-based skip a berth in the March 1-10 Tim Hortons Brier in Brandon, Man.
It will be the first appearance at the national playdowns for McDonald and Kingston-based third Jonathan Beuk, second Wesley Forget and lead Scott Chadwick. The rink is in its first season together as a foursome.
"I'm not sure there's a single word to describe it," Forget said in a text. "Maybe a combination of honour and shock."
Jim Cotter is also Brier-bound after a 9-4 win over Jason Montgomery in the British Columbia final while the Northern Ontario honours went to Brad Jacobs after a 7-5 victory over Tanner Horgan.
Earlier in the day, Andrew Symonds beat Rick Rowsell 5-0 to secure the Newfoundland and Labrador title. Brad Gushue, a 14-time provincial champion, was not in the field since he has a Brier berth as the defending champion.
The remaining spots in the Feb. 15-24 Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Sydney, N.S., were also filled over the weekend.
Rachel Homan will represent Ontario after her 6-4 victory over Julie Tippin on Saturday. Krista McCarville took the Northern Ontario women's crown on Sunday with an 8-7 win over Jenna Enge and Sarah Wark won the B.C. title by topping Corryn Brown 7-4.
Kerri Einarson and Casey Scheidegger locked up wild-card game spots at the Scotties based on their Canadian rankings.
The rest of the Brier field will be finalized over the coming weeks.
McDonald defeated the likes of Glenn Howard and Charley Thomas in Elmira before beating Epping three straight times — the round-robin finale, the Page Playoff 1-2 game and the final — to run the table at 11-0.
McDonald scored at least seven points in every game and outscored the opposition 85-38 overall.
"I don't think anyone ever enters a tournament having played as much as we did, and put the work in that we did, to finish second or third," McDonald said. "We wanted to go to the Brier.
"Even just saying that now — that we're going to the Brier — that's pretty cool."
Epping, who beat Howard in the morning semifinal, still has a chance to reach the Brier's wild-card game since he has a strong ranking.
McDonald opened the final with back-to-back deuces and sealed the victory with another pair in the sixth end.
Earlier this season, McDonald won a bonspiel in Gatineau, Que., and finished second at the Grand Slam's Tour Challenge Tier 2 event.
Currently 14th on the World Curling Tour's Order of Merit season standings, McDonald also competed at the National and the Canadian Open but did not reach the playoffs.
Forget and McDonald played with skip Codey Maus last season while Beuk and Chadwick teamed with skip Greg Balsdon.