Jerry Chudley’s curling team had a breakout season last year by qualifying for its first Safeway Championship and pulling off a few upsets there.
Chudley, third Kevin Cooley, second Brent McKee and lead Paul Robertson would like to follow that up by playing at this year’s provincial men’s championship, which will be held in their hometown of Neepawa from Feb. 6-10. Their road begins this weekend with the Westman men’s playdowns in Virden.
Chudley will skip one of 18 teams competing for three berths in provincials. While some of the region’s top teams — including Brandon’s Rob Fowler and Terry McNamee — won’t be at regionals because they already have their spots in provincials, Chudley expects a very tough field.
"There’s still some good teams in it," he said. "Kelly (Robertson) is in it again and (Duane) Lang’s having a great year. A couple of the other guys from the Super League, (Kelly) Marnoch and (Rob) Van Kommer, are always tough."
Lang and Shawn Taylor are the only two Brandon-based teams in the playdowns.
Chudley has had a decent season. Entering last night’s action, he sported a 5-4 record in the Brandon Sun Westman Super League of Curling. He also qualified for the playoffs in both Manitoba Curling Tour events he entered and went 2-2 at a berth bonspiel in Gimli.
Chudley likes the way his team is playing and believes this weekend is their best chance to qualify for provincials. Chudley, who will also play at the Brandon Men’s Bonspiel in January, admits he may feel what’s at stake during his first game on Saturday against Killarney’s Russel Shackel.
"I always feel a bit of pressure in the first game, but once you get going, it seems to be fairly good that way," he said.
Meanwhile, five Dauphin-based teams are in the eight-team Parkland field playing for two spots. Gladstone’s Geoff Trimble and Pilot Mound’s Curtis McCannell are in the 13-team Central playdowns that have two spots up for grabs.
WOMEN’S PLAYDOWNS: Five teams will compete for two spots in the provincial Scotties during Westman playdowns on Saturday and Sunday at Miniota. In the field are Carberry’s Tina Kozak as well as four Brandon-based teams skipped by Stacey Fordyce, Quinn Roberts, Liza Park and Lindsey Paull.
Lisa Menard and Amanda Tymchuk, both from Dauphin, will play a best-of-three series on Saturday and Sunday to determine the lone Parkland rep. Plumas’ Terry Ursel is in the same situation against La Salle’s Deb McCreanor in the Central playdowns.
MASTERS MEN: Virden’s Murray Duncan and Shoal Lake’s Murray Solomon are off to the masters men’s provincials. Solomon beat Ron Anderson, who is also from Shoal Lake, 8-1 in the Westman playdowns B-event final on Wednesday. Duncan topped Anderson 8-3 on Tuesday in the A-event final. Dauphin’s Ralph Wilson won the only berth in the Parkland playdowns.
GRAND SLAM: Brandon’s Rob Fowler is at the $100,000 Canadian Open of Curling Grand Slam in Kelowna, B.C., which started yesterday and wraps up on Sunday. Also in the field are former Brandonites Mike McEwen, William Lyburn and Nolan Thiessen, who plays lead for Alberta’s Kevin Koe.
EXTRA ENDS: The Brandon Curling Club’s Monday night men’s league is looking for one more team to play after the Christmas break. Contact Gil Van Daele at 204-726-3560 … The organizing committee for the provincial junior championships, which will be held at the Brandon Curling club from Jan. 3-7, is looking for volunteers. Contact Van Daele at 204-726-3560 …Neepawa will host a Boxing Day bonspiel on Dec. 26. Entry fee is $80. Contact Weldon Newton at 204-476-3824.