For Jerry Chudley, it doesn’t seem like a day goes by where he isn’t stopped about 10 times in Neepawa with people asking him if he has a spot at the Safeway Championship. Now he can say yes.
Chudley and his team of Kevin Cooley, Brent McKee and Paul Robertson secured a berth at the provincial men’s curling championship, which will be hosted in their hometown of Neepawa from Feb. 6-10, by reaching the competitive division final at the Brandon Men’s Bonspiel on Sunday. They fell 7-1 to China’s Rui Liu in the final, but that didn’t bother Chudley one bit.
"I’m pretty excited," said Chudley, who earned his Safeway berth last year through the Brandon Men’s Bonspiel. "I’m really happy with the way the guys played. In our first game we didn’t play that well, but after that I thought we played pretty well the whole way through."
Chudley dropped his opening game 8-7 to Virden’s Cory Zdan, but his squad was lights out after that, qualifying for the playoffs through the B event. On Sunday, he beat Beausejour’s Brenden Taylor, who already has a berth at provincials, 5-1 in the quarter-finals and followed that up with a 5-2 victory over Brandon’s Rob Fowler, the defending provincial men’s champion.
Beating two teams that will be at provincials has given Chudley even more confidence as he looks forward to the rest of his season.
"We knew it would be a tough day coming in," he said. "We saw the draw last night and knew Brenden’s a good curler and Rob’s a good curler. It means a lot to beat the best to get there too."
The bonspiel final, however, turned the tides on Chudley. He gave up a deuce in the first end and then threw a draw against three through the house to fall behind 5-0. He couldn’t overcome the early deficit and let the Chinese team, which won its Pacific-Asia playdowns to earn a spot at this year’s world curling championship, leave Brandon with the $1,500 grand prize. Chudley took home $1,000 for his efforts.
The Safeway Championship will now feature two hometown teams as Kelly Robertson earned his spot through Westman regional playdowns in December. Add a Brandonite as the defending champion and Chudley expects Neepawa to be hopping when the Safeways come to town.
"It will draw a little more interest for sure," he said.
In the recreation side of the Brandon Men’s Bonspiel, Norm Gamble defeated Nate Andrews 9-3 to win the A event, Chris Bridges topped Kyle Sambrook 9-1 to win the B event, Larry McRae edged Cam Toews 5-4 to win the C event and Randy O’Greysik slipped past Colin Dunbar 7-5 to claim the D event title.