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Tuesday, May. 21, 2019
Even for the somewhat competitive, curling stays in your blood
by Randy Pascal

The list of young curlers who have showcased their skill-set in local clubs over the course of the past ten to fifteen years is a lengthy and impressive one. It’s also clear that the vast majority of those young men and women have not necessarily migrated over to top end competitions, targeting a berth in the Brier or Scotties as their ultimate goal.

So what exactly becomes of all of this talent?

This past Tuesday, we caught up with just such a gathering of curlers, recent university graduates now in the work force, a team that we have dubbed “Billy and the Angels” (not exactly their preferred choice, we should say).

The Idylwylde Golf & Country Club All Sorts League is now home to the once a week involvement of an intriguing foursome that includes skip Billy Mekers, and female counterparts Robin Beaudry, Robyn Froude and Chloe Gordon, all of whom rotate through the remaining three positions.

“We’re all just busy with work, but we missed the competitive edge of curling, so this kind of made sense,” said Mekers. “It gives us a little bit of that competitive taste, without having to make the full commitment that top teams do.”

As many in the curling community can attest, the paths of those who enjoy the sport will cross in the Sudbury region with regularity. In fact, these random meetings on the ice over the years will often form the genesis of team formation come adult years. It’s certainly no different with this crew.

“We’ve all kind of mingled throughout the years,” said Mekers. “Myself and the Robins/Robyns played a mixed provincial together, Chloe and I have curled together, and we were on the Laurentian teams at the same time. We’ve known each other for what seems like forever, really.”

From the sounds of things, very little arm-twisting was required when the thought of this fearsome foursome being formed was introduced. “I thought it was a great idea, because we all have similar “work lives”, I guess you could say,” suggested Beaudry. “We get to know each other a little bit more, get to continue our friendship from previous years.”

And while Beaudry and Froude were mainstays through their bantam and junior careers with a team that also included Avryl Evans and Carolyne Graham, the realization about where curling falls in the grand scheme of priorities will cause many a young curler to adjust their approach to the game as they balance their athletic passion with everything else that life throws their way.

“Doing mixed provincials was fun, it was still low key,” recalled Beaudry. “We went out there wanting to do the best that we could, but it was also more about having a little more competition and trying to get out again. It’s not really about winning all the time. We don’t have the same goals that competitive teams would have.”

“It’s more just for fun and to kind of keep us still in the game, not to lose the talents that we had in curling. For where I am right now, once a week is enough.” Just a year or so removed from her graduation from the Nursing program at Laurentian, Froude is returning to the game after missing out entirely on the 2016-2017 season.

“Given that I didn’t curl at all last year, except the Post Bonspiel (in Copper Cliff) with Robin and Billy, I’m definitely a little rusty,” she said with a smile. “I was really excited to start this season. Even though I have shift work, I make time for this.” A few weeks into her current schedule of games, Froude is very gradually returning to form.

“On the curling side, I don’t think that you ever really lose that,” she said. “And I guess maybe sweeping too, even though my arms were really sore the next day. I think you lose the line quicker, because that has to do with your whole delivery, the way you’re releasing the rock. There are a bunch of specific techniques that you would normally work on in practice, which I haven’t.”

In Gordon, the “Robins” are now teamed with a long-time familiar foe, though all insist the rivalry remained friendly throughout. In fact, Gordon might be hard-pressed to compile a fully complete listing of all those friends and acquaintances that she has enjoyed the pleasure of curling with over the years.

“I’ve played on so many teams in the past,” she laughed. “I have a fun team on Thursday nights in Copper Cliff, and they are brand new curlers, so I’m pretty good at adjusting to different abilities.” Perhaps a little more than the others, Gordon gets drawn in by the excitement of competition, having made it to a provincial final two years ago as a member of a mixed doubles team with her brother.

She is, after all, a curler through and through. “I’m never going to stop curling, I just couldn’t give it up,” she said. “Even through university, I found time to curl, three nights a week last year.”

And while the wins have been scarce in the early going, no one is about to complain about team chemistry, in spite of the somewhat unusual mix of a male skip with three female teammates. “We don’t see Billy that often, he’s down at the other end,” joked Gordon, who admitted that the young ladies declined the option of also rotating through the skip position with Mekers.

And as for the research analyst with the Child Family Centre, there are worse things in life than getting out once a week with this trio. “To be honest, I wouldn’t have it any other way,” he said. As for the suggested “Billy and the Angels” team jackets, let’s just say they are still on hold.

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