Two women with local ties will be in the field today when curlers from across the nation converge on the Schenectady Curling Club for the opening of the 62nd annual U.S. Women’s Curling Association National Bonspiel.
A full field of 32 rinks has been assembled — including teams from Seattle and Arizona — for the four-day event that wraps up with finals in four events Sunday at 1:30 p.m.
The first shift is on the ice this morning at 7:30, followed by draws at 10:10 a.m., 12:50 p.m. and 3:30 before curlers break for a banquet at the Hilton Garden Inn in Troy. Play resumes throughout the day Friday and Saturday.
“The things we have had at the club are minor compared to this,” said Charlene Fitzgerald of SCCC, who is chairing the bonspiel. “This is a huge event. We have teams from all over the country.”
Fitzgerald said weather has not had a major impact on travel. The Coyotes rink from Arizona is juggling flights, trying to get to Albany, and the rink from Potomac, Md., may not arrive in time for the opening round and would forfeit its match.
In addition to the two Schenectady rinks and one Albany team in the field, former Schenectady Curling Club member Sue Fink is the lead for skip Dawn Gutro’s Broomstones (Massachusetts) rink that won the USWCA title last year in Wauwatosa, Wis.
Fink moved to Franklin, Mass., when her husband, Dave, was transferred by his employer. Their daughter, Chrissy Haase, has become a world-class curler, competing on the Patti Lank team that finished second in the U.S. Olympic trials last year. Haase is taking a break from curling this winter, and her first child was born on Monday.
The national bonspiel is also a homecoming of sorts for Star Pfiffner, a USWCA president from 2006-07 and skip of the No. 1
Madison, Wis., rink. Pfiffner was born down the road from the Schenectady Curling Club at Bellevue Maternity Hospital, and grew up in Colonie before moving away with her family at age 14.
But Pfiffner made a triumphant return to the area in 1990, when Schenectady also hosted the USWCA event. She was on the downrink of skip Ann Neff’s North Shore Rink from Chicago that first knocked out Katie Carerra’s defending champions from Kettle Moraine, Wis., in the semifinals, then downed Exmoor of Illinois, 11-6, for the championship.
Also in the semifinals that year was Carla Casper of Green Bay, Wis., who played on the 1988 U.S. Olympic team in Calgary. Her daughter, Chris Casper, will be skipping Green Bay this time.
But one of Carla Casper’s 1988 Olympic teammates, Lori Mountford, will be in Schenectady this week as the lead for the Madison, Wis., No. 2 rink. Mountford also played two for the Lisa Shoeneberg rink that won U.S. Curling Association championships in 1992, ’95 and ’96, and twice won a silver medal at the world championships.
Many of the entries are from the Midwest, a hotbed of curling. There are six rinks from Wisconsin, five from Ohio and others from Minnesota, Illinois, Washington and Arizona in the brackets. The balance of the field is eastern foursomes representing clubs from New Hampshire to Maryland.
Schenectady’s skips are Maureen Fodera, who is curling with Andrea Warr, Nancy Wurth and Amy Howansky, and Dorothy Szymaszek, who has Fay Navratil, Paula Lancaster and Yuko Kashiwado on her downrink.
Albany Curling Club’s entry is skipped by Flo Springstead of Latham, who served as USWCA president from 2005-06. She is curling with Roberta Crain, Beth Stacy and Gloria Marino.
Losers from early rounds drop into second, third and fourth events, but because of the size of the field, there is no advancement for teams knocked out in the later rounds. Rinks that lose in the semifinals of the A (main) event, for example, are done.
Fitzgerald said that months of preparation have gone into the planning and executing of this bonspiel. Charlotte Colton, who chaired the event in 1990, will be in the kitchen this time and head chef for all of the meals being served at the club. Other key committee members include Amanda Vickerson, Carol Munro, Sue Adair, Alice Rubin, Fred Mackintosh and Victor Rodriguez.
Today, 7:30 a.m. — Schenectady 1 (Maureen Fodera) vs. Madison 1 (Star Pfiffner), Albany (Flo Springstead) vs. Cleveland (Suzanne Dick), Nashua (Nancy Dinsdale), vs. Green Bay (Chris Casper), Mayfield 3 (Luci Schey) vs. Ardsley 1 (Joyance Meechai).
Today, 10:10 a.m. — Mayfield 2 (Dee Montgomery) vs. Utica (Joyce Shaffer), Arizona Coyotes (Susan Lang) vs. Nutmeg 2 (Diane Muldowney), Nutmeg 1 (Donna Purkey) vs. Mayfield 1 (Deb Horn), Plainfield (Gail Knight) vs. Madison 2 (Kathy Pielage).
Today, 12:50 p.m. — Potomac (Dawn Findlay) vs. Kettle Moraine 2 (Judy Maier), Cape Cod 2 (Martina Heisler) vs. Milwaukee (Margie Knitter), Cape Cod 1 (Mary Colacchio) vs. Granite (Tammy Lehto), Broomstones (Dawn Gutro) vs. Exmoor (Georgia West).
Today, 3:30 p.m. — Arden Hills (Teri Murie) vs. The Country Club (Coco Wellington), Bowling Green (Joan Freeman) vs. Ardsley 2 (Nancy Clancy), Rochester (Gail Short) vs. Philadelphia (Rosemary Morgan), Kettle Moraine 1 (Bonnie Dixon) vs. Schenectady 2 (Dorothy Szymaszek).