BEMIDJI – The Great Lakes Curling Tour was born as a way for competitive curlers in the area to stay sharp and continually hone their skills.
The tour is in its second season and this weekend the Bemidji Curling Club will host the third stop in this year’s seven-event schedule – the Bernick’s Miller Lite Open.
“It’s hard for us to get to some of the quality events,” said Bemidji curler Pete Fenson. “We wanted an avenue for the area curlers to play on a regular basis so we created our own.”
The Great Lakes Curling Tour schedule began Aug. 17 in Ft. Wayne, Ind., and on Oct. 12 the tour stopped in St. Paul.
Following this weekend’s event the curlers will head to Thunder Bay, Ontario, (Nov. 9), Duluth (Nov. 23), Madison, Wis., (Nov. 30) and Eveleth (Dec. 14).
Pete Fenson’s rink is one of 18 teams which will battle for cash prizes at the Bernick’s Open. The teams have been divided into three pools and the top six teams, according to overall pool records, will advance to Sunday’s playoffs.
The field includes six teams with Bemidji ties. Among them is the Allison Pottinger rink which features Natalie Nicholson as the second. Among the rink’s accomplishments was representing the United States at the 2010 Olympics.
Nicholson has participated in eight World Championships and finished as high as second in 2006.
She is the second on the rink skipped by Pottinger, who has skipped 11 teams to the World Championships, including the 2003 rink which won the World title.
The men’s rinks in the tournament include eight with experience representing the United States at World Championship venues. Among the group are:
-Todd Birr of Mankato – World bronze medalist in 2007;
-Eric Fenson of Bemidji – U.S. champion in 2003 and placed eighth at Worlds;
-Pete Fenson of Bemidji – seven-time World participant, placing third in 1993 and fourth in 2006 and 2010. Also placed third in the 2006 Olympics;
-Al Hackner of Thunder Bay, Ontario – World Champion in 1982 and 1985. Also recently named a coach for the USA national team;
-Mark Haluptzok of Bemidji – Four appearances in men’s World Championship, placing third in 1993. Also was second in the World Senior Championships in 2003 and was elected to the USA Curling Hall of Fame in 2007
-Kevin Kakela of Rolla, N.D. – participated in the World Championships in 1997 and 2008;
-Dale Gibbs of St. Paul – won the Senior World’s Championship in 2010 and was second in 2006 and 2009;
-Matt Stevens of Bemidji – curled at the World Championships in 1996. Also curled in six national championship tournaments;
-John Shuster of Duluth – participated in four World Championships, finishing as high as fourth in 2006
“This is a good field for a U.S. event,” Pete Fenson said. “It’s going to be a very good tournament.”
Each game will consist of eight ends and the action begins at 9 a.m. Friday.
Other Friday draws will begin at 12:30 p.m., 4 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
That schedule will be repeated on Saturday. Sunday’s schedule includes the quarterfinals at 9 a.m., the semifinals at noon and the championship match at 3 p.m.
Bemidji’s rinks include:
-Randy Baird, Josh Bahr, Chase Schmidt;
-Eric Fenson, Trevor Andrews, Blake Morton and Calvin Weber;
-Mark Haluptzok, Jon Chandler, Mark Fenner and Alex Fenson;
-Matt Stevens, Cody Stevens, Bob Liapis and Jeff Breyen;
-Pete Fenson, Shawn Rojeski, Joe Polo and Ryan Brunt;
-Allison Pottinger, Tara Peterson, Natalie Nicholson and Tabitha Peterson.
The public is welcome to watch the curling and no admission will be charged.
Great Lakes Curling Tour
Bemidji Curling Club
Pool A Teams
Eric Fenson (Bemidji), Pete Fenson (Bemidji), Dale Gibbs (St. Paul), Mark Haluptzok (Bemidji), Ethan Meyers (Minnesota), Kris Perkovich (Minnesota)
Pool B Teams
Randy Baird (Bemidji), Scott Brown (North Dakota0, Kyle Doering (Winnipeg), Andy Hackner (Thunder Bay), Kevin Kakela (Rolla, N.D.), John Shuster (Duluth)
Ryan Berg (West Fargo), Todd Birr (Mankato), Andy Borland (Hibbing), Mike McCarville (Thunder Bay), Allison Pottinger (Bemidji), Matt Stevens (Bemidji)
NOTE: Pool play will be held at 9 a.m., 12:30 p.m., 4 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Sunday’s schedule includes quarterfinals at 9 a.m., semifinals at noon and final at 3 p.m.