Jim Lyle is going to going to be one busy curler the next 10 days or so as he chases two provincial titles.
Saturday, the St. Thomas skip and his rink of Kevin Breivik, Ken Baute, Ted Smith and Peter Hayman open play at the TSC Stores Tankard men's regionals at Goderich Maitland against Scott Llewellyn of Dundas Granite. Six other rinks are entered in the double-knockout event, which will send two rinks to the provincial championship Feb. 12-18 in Sarnia.
Lyle will barely have time to rest before taking his senior men's rink of Larry Smyth, Pete DeKoning and Smith to the Ontario championship starting Tuesday in Lindsay. Among the seven other entries is four-time champion and three-time national champion Bob Turcotte of Scarborough, who beat Lyle 6-5 in an extra end in a semifinal in 2004, when Lyle was making his seniors debut. Lyle lost the final last year to Bruce Delaney of Russell.
"It's going to mean lots of Advil," Lyle joked yesterday. "I'd certainly love to advance in the Tankard and play in one more Ontario final before I'm done, but realistically you've got to think we've got a much better chance of doing something in the seniors."
Also competing in the Tannkard regionals is former Northern Ontario junior champion Craig Kochan of Oakville, curling out of Vanastra with 1983 Saskatchewan skip Kirk Ziola of London at third. They open against three-time Ontario runner-up Phil Daniel of Kingsville.
Rounding out the field are Dave Vanderbroek of St. Thomas and his rink of Dave Gilbert and Pete and Harry van Ymeren, Bob Stafford of Chatham Granite, Kevin Matheson of Listowel and Rick Thurston of Dundas Granite.
Stafford, ironically, is doing the same double as Lyle and was a former teammate about 15 years ago, Lyle said. Stafford is representing Kingsville in the seniors.
The Ontario senior women's finals also begin Tuesday in Lindsay with Highland's Ruth Alexander and her rink of Gayle George, Karen Webster and Sue Bierbaum among the entries. Perennial favourite Anne Dunn of Galt isn't competing, as she'll be representing Canada at the world seniors March 22-20 in Edmonton while the Canadians are March 18-25 in Trois Rivieres.
City of London's new look
The 97th annual City of London bonspiel opens today at 7 p.m. at the London Curling Club with 16 rinks, including, for the first time, two women's entries in Ilderton's Amie Coward and Chinese champion Wang Bingyu, who currently stands 15th on the World Curling Tour women's money list with $10,600.
"I got an e-mail about them and at first I thought it was a hoax and almost deleted it," convener Greg Lewis said, chuckling, of the Chinese entry. "Now I'm 95-per-cent sure it's legit."
Down to 16 entries, it's also joined the Ontario Curling Tour as a cash event, offering a total purse of $5,000, with each game having money on the line and the winner taking home $1,200 in all.
"For whatever reason, local 'spiels are hard to fill now. In the '80s and '90s, there used to be a waiting list for this one even with 32 teams," Lewis said, adding that's one reason for the move to the OCT. "These (OCT) events fill up pretty quickly."
Four of the six Southern Ontario berths at the renamed provincial Scotties Tournament of Hearts have been secured, with three very familiar names among them -- three-time champion Sherry Middaugh of Coldwater, 2005 champ Jenn Hanna of Ottawa and former Londoner Jo-Ann Rizzo of Brant, who all emerged from last weekend's regionals at Ayr and Gananoque. Sara Harvey of Unionville is joining them at the Hearts Jan. 22-28 in Mississauga along with the two qualifers from this weekend's Hearts Challenge Round at Bradford, plus four Northern Ontario entries.
Around the house
Gayle Annett of Windsor Roseland won the two-day Gay Lea women's bonspiel at the Ilderton Curling Club. Finishing second was Jane Galloway and her Ilderton rink of Sue Davies, Barb Prohaszka and Gayle Bycraft . . . The bantam boys' and girls' (16 and under) zone playdowns run tomorrow through Sunday at Highland (16), St. Thomas (15), Wingham (14) and Welland (13). Two rinks from each advance to the regionals Jan. 20-21 at Chatham Granite . . . Masters (60 and over) men's and women's zone playdowns are also on this weekend at Leamington Sun Parlour (16), Stratford (15) and Walkerton (14). The regionals are Jan. 27-29 in Niagara Falls.