As a highly respected ice maker, Vernon’s Dave Merklinger meets the best curlers in the world all over the planet.
He chatted with winner Rachel Homan of Ottawa after the 2017 Scotties Tournament of Hearts in St. Catharines, Ont. and mentioned the annual Prestige Hotels and Resorts Curling Classic.
Homan, who went on to take the world title in Beijing, accepted the invitation and heads the class of 24 ladies’ rinks in the event which starts Thursday, Sept. 28 at the Vernon Curling Club.
There is a purse of $41,500 with the winner earning $9,000.
“I put the bug in her ear at the Scotties and told her she could help promote the Penticton Scotties (Jan. 27-Feb. 4) as Team Canada by coming to Vernon,” said Merklinger. “I’ve been watching these kids for years. I do their ice all the time.”
Homan, 28, is a former Canadian junior champion with three Scotties victories. Her rink became only the third in world tournament history to go unbeaten in round-robin play, joining fellow Canadian Colleen Jones from 2003 and Sweden’s Anette Norberg from 2005.
She ended up going unbeaten right to the end, the only team to do so to date, winning the gold medal by beating Anna Sidorova (for the third consecutive time with wins in the round robin, 1-2 playoff game, and final) 8-3 for the gold medal.
Chelsea Carey of Winnipeg and Val Sweeting of Edmonton are also confirmed for Vernon.
As defending champions, Carey, 37, represented Team Canada at the 2017 Scotties. Carey compiled a 9-2 round robin record, good enough for third place. She finished with a bronze medal
Following the season, Amy Nixon left the team and was replaced with veteran third Cathy Overton-Clapham, formerly with Jennifer Jones.Carey began the 2017-18 curling season with a mixed doubles tour win with partner Colin Hodgson at the Canad Inns Mixed Doubles Championships in Winnipeg.
Sweeting, 30, represented Alberta at the 2014 Scotties at the Maurice Richard Arena in Montreal, losing 8-6 to Homan in the gold-medal game.
“We’ve also got rinks coming from Korea and China since they love coming out here for early-season competition,” said Merklinger. “Marla Mallett, who won here last year, and Shannon Kleibrink, who was at the 2017 Scotties, are also entered.”
Vernon’s hopes will be represented by veteran Kim Slattery, who will have youngster Alyssa Kyllo on her roster.
Slattery opens against Kayte Gyes of Cloverdale, while Homan tangles with Corryn Brown of Kamloops, Sweeting meets Sarah Wark of Chilliwack and Mallett goes up against Kerri Einarson of Winnipeg. The ladies and men’s finals go on the Sunday.
There are only eight men’s rinks in the Classic with most of the heavyweights like Jim Cotter of Vernon playing a Saskatoon cashspiel the same weekend.
“You need 15 teams to get CRT (Olympic ranking) points so I told Jim not to worry about playing a home spiel,” said Merklinger, the club’s manager and ice maker. “Most of the men’s teams will be from B.C.”
The B.C. 55+ Games take over the club next week, with the ice open for practice following the Games. An open house is scheduled for Sunday, Sept. 17 from noon-4 p.m.
Cotter and his sister, Chelan Cotter, head the Junior and Little Rockers program Mondays from 3:30-5:30 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 a.m.-noon. Junior registration is Mondays, Sept 18 and 25 at 3:30 p.m.
Registration for all other leagues, including the stick circuit, go Monday, Sept. 11 at 6:30 p.m.
There will be two-day beginner and intermediate clinics Sept. 18-19 at 6:30 p.m. with a $25 charge.
The Saturday night drop-in sessions start Oct. 14 at 6:30 p.m. Call the club at 250-542-6713.