Lois Fowler's curling peers gave her a lovely birthday present yesterday.
The Brandon skip, who celebrated her 50th birthday on Tuesday, has been voted the No. 1 seed for next week's Scott Tournament of Hearts provincial women's curling championship in Souris. The participating rinks vote to determine the seeds.
Fowler, who curls with Gerri Cooke, Maureen Bonar and Lana Hunter, is the defending provincial champ.
"I guess it's quite an honour, but we certainly gotta go and play because it's a very strong field this year," Fowler said yesterday from the Wheat City.
Fort Rouge's Barb Spencer, who won the 2003 Scott, is No. 2, while St. Vital's Jennifer Jones, the 2002 winner, is No. 3. Fort Rouge's Joelle Duguid, who won the MCA Women's Bonspiel last weekend, rounds out the top four.
That means Fowler and Duguid will be in the same round-robin pool, while Spencer and Jones will be together in the other when the action begins next Wednesday morning at Murray Arena.
Fowler's season started on a painful note in October when she tore a quad muscle in her left leg while throwing a rock. Fowler missed only three weeks, and she is pleased with how her squad has performed since her injury.
"I can't say that we've had an off season at all," she said. "We've actually played to the level we played last year throughout the season, and then it all came together for us at provincials.
"Hopefully that'll happen again."
Jones was the No. 1 seed at the past two Scotts, but she failed to win both of them. Jones replaced Karen Porritt with Cathy Overton and Lynn Fallis-Kurz with Cathy Gauthier this year, and the results have been positive.
"We're playing really well, actually," Jones said. "We had a really good start to the year, and we've kind of picked it up again lately."
Interestingly, Fowler will face a unique test in the round-robin when she squares off against her daughter, Rhonda Ritchie, who plays second for Liza Park's Brandon rink.
Mother and daughter were teammates on Bonar's 1993 provincial Scott championship squad, but Ritchie has lived in Germany for the past six winters. Now she's back in North America and will face her ever-competitive mother.
"I'm not nervous about playing them or anything, that's for sure," Fowler said. "I don't even care who it is. We just have to go out, not even look at who it is, and play them. I'm sure we're not going to go lightly on them.
"They're just another team. I don't care if she's on it or not. She just came back this year, so she's got lots of years left. We don't."
Top-eight seeds for Manitoba' women's curling championship to be played in Souris from Jan. 26-30:
1. Lois Fowler, Brandon
2. Barb Spencer, Fort Rouge
3. Jennifer Jones, St Vital
4. Joelle Duguid, Fort Rouge
5. Janet Harvey, Fort Rouge
6. Kristy Jenion, St Vital
7. Ainsley Champagne, Fort Rouge
8. Liza Park, Brandon
-- Source: MCA