Grassie making a name for himself

GEORGE KARRYS, Special to QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:50 PM ET

TORONTO - Who the heck is Grassie?

The curling world is tight-knit community, and everyone is supposed to know everyone — or at least know of everyone. But some of the World Curling Tour men’s teams in Portage, Man., over the weekend might have had to think about that name: Grassie?

Sean Grassie ended up climbing the Portage leaderboard all the way to the semifinals, before losing to eventual champion Mike McEwen of Winnipeg.

Grassie is a Winnipeg skip known for a) superb Mixed play and b) a youngish men’s team that is growing in confidence and performance.

In Portage, Grassie beat nemesis Willie Lyburn of Brandon twice, taking a four-ender to start their all-important qualifying match. Grassie also took four on Braeden Moskowy of Saskatoon, and another four-banger on mighty Glenn Howard of Ontario in the quarterfinals.

Grassie actually missed a shot for five against the Howard crew.

“Yeah, I drew in to lie four, and (Howard) wrecked,” explained Grassie.

“So I went down to throw the same shot, but then I was in the hack thinking ... and I changed my draw to the other side, where the ice was fresh. Bad call.”

Grassie says he’s not intentionally chasing big ends against opponents, nor does he intend to start travelling to tour events outside his province.

“That’s just the way it happens,” he says. “We’re playing well and we’re pretty confident. We didn’t have any sponsorship at the start of the year, either. That cheque (from Portage) is about as much as we made all of last year.

Last year was a good one, too. Team Grassie, which now includes Corey Chambers, Kody Janzen and Stuart Shiells, won four Manitoba Curling Tour events in 2010-11 plus a major trophy event in the humongous MCA Bonspiel, which fields some 700 teams in a week-long, city-wide Winterpeg festival of rock ’n roll.

Grassie won the 2009 Canadian Mixed and then made a storming comeback to win bronze at the 2009 World Mixed Doubles in Cortina D’Ampezzo, Italy.

He could become the first Canadian to make it back to the World Mixed Doubles shootout when his Manitoba team hits the ice at the 2011 Canadian Mixed in Sudbury on Nov. 12.

The Deer Lodge tennis pro is also a budding journalist. Some of his curling stories have appeared in the Winnipeg Sun and he is currently writing a book on the MCA Bonspiel.

“It started as a journalism class project,” says Grassie. “After I handed in the pages for the project, it just went on and on. I’ve got over 200 pages and I hope to get it to the publisher, um, fairly soon.”

Competing deep into playoff curling weekends will no doubt delay that book further, as Grassie aims to make noise amid the McEwens and Stoughtons of Manitoba curling. His squad is now ranked fifth on the MCT money list.

SHOT OF THE MONTH

When Renee Sonnenberg of Grande Prairie, Alta. crouched down to throw her final stone of the Casinos of Winnipeg women’s Grand Slam semifinal on Monday night, she was facing one of those classic “Hail Mary” scenarios.

Opponent Cathy Overton-Clapham was in a position to steal the win and advance to the final. The curling club was jammed with bodies craning for a look from behind the glass.

Sonnenberg burst out of the hack, fired her stone with an out-turn, and watched in jubilation as her shooter kissed off a rock way out “in the weeds”, redirected itself toward the button and smacked Overton-Clapham’s shooter out of play.

Exactly what she called, and with virtually no margin for error.

The shot was all the more remarkable as Sonnenberg needed her shooter to score; therefore she needed the hit-and-stick.

She hit, and she stuck. Boom, baby.

Comparisons with the late Sandra Schmirler’s shot to win the 1997 Olympic Trials came to many a mind. In the seventh end of the championship final versus Calgary’s Shannon Kleibrink, “Schmirler The Curler” made a similar in-off — with an in-turn, mind you — for a huge score and the eventual victory.

Other comparisons were made to the Jennifer Jones shot from 2005: A last-ditch, last-shot effort at the end of the championship final for the win over Ontario’s Jenn Hanna.

That one was struck — and stuck, too.

“You can’t be too upset at such a great shot,” said a gracious Cathy O.

Sonnenberg went on to win the final 8-7 over Edmonton’s Heather Nedohin, and cashed a cool $15,500 cheque.

TWO MINUTES FOR CONFUSION

When Tomi Rantamäki’s team hits the ice in Europe, people notice.

Team Rantamäki is wearing hockey referee jerseys on the Curling Champions Tour (CCT), the European arm of the World Curling Tour. “We had a new player on our team this season and we needed a new outfit,” says Rantamäki. “They thought it was a joke but then I gave them the jerseys, and they knew this was real.

“Apparently some local people thought we are referees that came to play curling. On the event webcasts (www.laola1.tv) the announcers have had to mention several times that we are real players, not referees.”

As the skip of his Finnish team, Rantamäki gets to wear the head zebra’s orange armbands. Of course.


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