STONEWALL — It’s been a winding road for Kristen Phillips to make it back to the provincial Scotties Tournament of Hearts.
Following a disappointing 2-5 finish at the 2011 Manitoba women’s curling championship, skip Jill Thurston informed the Brandonite that she would play with a new third in the following season. Unfazed, but a little disappointed, the 2002 provincial junior women’s champion went about forming her own team.
A few days after Phillips had her new squad in place, she learned she was pregnant and told her teammates she wouldn’t be able to play in the second half of the 2011-12 season. The team eventually folded after another member chose to look after her father and his difficult medical situation. Phillips didn’t throw a rock all season, although she helped with the junior program at the Brandon Curling Club.
But Phillips’ life brightened up in the new year. First, Thurston called and asked her to rejoin the team after another disappointing Scotties last year. Then, Phillips gave birth to her daughter Leah in February. Phillips loves being a new mom, but also couldn’t resist the chance to curl competitively again.
"Jill’s a great player and I think she’s the right person to throw that last rock and to have that opportunity again, I didn’t want to pass it up," Phillips said.
Phillips said it didn’t take long for her to get back in the swing of things. She worked with the Thurston team trainer during the summer to get back into shape and felt sliding out of the hack was just like riding a bike.
However, things have not gone well for Thurston’s team this season. They curled in competitive bonspiels for 17 straight weeks trying to earn enough Canadian Team Rankings System points to qualify for the Olympic pre-trials. However, they earned only 5.55 points and won $620 on the World Curling Tour.
Part of the reason for their struggles was that they had three different leads before Elkhorn’s Brittany Cousins — making her Scotties debut this week — committed for the remainder for the season.
They earned their way to the Scotties through the Winnipeg playdowns and now they have one goal.
"To win," Phillips said. "There’s nothing other than winning here."
Dauphin’s Lisa Menard gave Phillips and her team a run for their money in their first game on Wednesday, forcing them to overcome a 4-0 deficit the Thurston team pulled out a 9-6 victory. Phillips feels her team got rid of the nerves in that game and feels confident about the rest of the competition.
"I think at the beginning we were just struggling with draw weight," she said. "… We got down a little early, but then we just said have patience and find draw weight and it worked out for us."
SAFEWAY TICKETS: Full event passes for the Safeway Championship are on sale for $100. Tickets for the provincial men’s championship can be purchased in Neepawa at Gill and Schmall Agencies and Harris Pharmacy as well as Brandon’s Dick Agencies.
GRAND SLAM: Brandon’s Rob Fowler and former Brandonite Mike McEwen begin their quest for The National, a World Curling Tour Grand Slam event in Nova Scotia today. The 18-team event, which began with one draw on Wednesday night, features a $100,000 purse and wraps up Sunday.
EXTRA ENDS: The Brandon club will host a learn-to-curl clinic for anyone over the age of 16 on Saturday from 1-4 p.m. Anyone interested in participating or helping people learn the roaring game can contact the club at 294-726-3560 … The Riverview mixed bonspiel will run from Friday through Sunday … Wawanesa’s men’s bonspiel will be held on the same days, as will Neepawa’s men’s cash bonspiel and the Rivers women’s bonspiel … Virden will host a senior mixed bonspiel on Jan. 31 and Feb. 1. Entry fee is $100. Call Jim Lyons at 204-748-6634 … Wawanesa’s women’s event is set for Feb. 1-3. Contact Trent Cullen at 204-824-2638 … The Brandon club’s Silver Belles Bonspiel is Feb 6-7. Call June Clark at 204-728-7482.