Cashspiel curlers expect a Strong effort

STEVE GREEN -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 7:34 AM ET

Eight months ago, Heather Strong opened and closed the Scott Tournament of Hearts with losses to Eve Belisle at the John Labatt Centre.

The second was the more painful loss for the Newfoundland and Labrador skip, an 8-2 thumping by her Quebec counterpart in a tie-breaker at the national women's curling championship.

This weekend, however, Strong may get a shot at a little redemption at the 10th annual Southwestern Ontario Women's Charity Cashspiel at the London, Ilderton and St. Thomas curling clubs.

The $35,000 triple-knockout event, which has raised $143,500 for breast cancer research over the last nine years, opens play Friday with a very good 32-team field. And if Strong and Belisle win their first two games, they'll meet for a spot in one of two A-flight qualifiers.

But they're by no means the only name entrants:

- Defending cashspiel champion Deb McCormick of Madison, Wisc., also won this event in 2002, using it as a springboard to her 2003 world title. She also won the U.S. title last season, losing the championship game at the worlds to Olympic champion Anette Norberg of Sweden.

- Suzanne Gaudet of Charlottetown, the 2003 cashspiel champion, is the third skip who played at the JLC, where she went 4-7.

- Sherry Middaugh of Coldwater is the 2001 and 2004 SWOCC champion and a three-time Ontario champion.

- Anne Dunn of Galt is a four-time Canadian senior champion, a two-time world senior champion and a two-time Ontario Hearts champion.

- Jenn Hanna of Ottawa was the 2005 national Hearts runner-up, losing to Winnipeg's Jennifer Jones on one of the more memorable shots ever played. Hanna made it back to the Ontario Hearts last season, bowing out in the Page 3-4 playoff game.

- Patti Lank of Niagara Falls, N.Y., is a four-time U.S. champion.

- Janet McGhee of Uxbridge was runner-up at the Ontario Hearts last January in Fort Frances, while Jo-Ann Rizzo of Brantford was 5-4.

- Erin Morrissey of Ottawa was the 2006 Ontario junior women's champion.

"We've gained a reputation and that's what's putting us in good stead," cashspiel publicity chair Sandra Kleinstiver said of the event's ability to draw a good field in a year that has no Olympics or Olympic trials.

"The girls are well taken care of and they have an affinity for the cause," she said.

Local entries include Ruth Alexander of Highland and Leslie Bishop and Amie Coward of Ilderton.

The cashspiel kicks off with the pro-am Thursday at the Highland Country Club. Honorary cashspiel chair and two-time world champion Marilyn Bodogh, Rizzo, Dunn and Middaugh are among those expected to take part.

The winning rink will receive $11,000 and a berth in the 2007 Strauss Canada Cup March 13-18 in Kamloops, B.C.

IF YOU GO

What: Tenth annual Southwestern Ontario Women's Charity Cashspiel

When: Friday-Monday

Where: Ilderton, London and St. Thomas curling clubs

Pro-am: Thursday, 5 p.m., Highland Country Club

Silent auction: Friday-Saturday, St. Thomas Curling Club

Schedule: Draws at 9 a.m., 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Friday-Sunday; quarter-finals 7 p.m. Sunday at Curling Club; semifinals 9 a.m. Monday at LCC; final 1 p.m. at LCC

Purse: $35,000; winner receives $11,000

Information: www.sowcc.isp.ca


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