Several titles in 'inexperienced' field

TED WYMAN -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 11:35 AM ET

ST. JOHN'S, Nfld. -- It has been described as one of the most inexperienced fields in Scott Tournament of Hearts history, but there are plenty of curlers who would dispute that. Especially all those players who made big names for themselves as juniors.

While there are 20 players in this field who are making their first appearance in the Canadian women's championship, the majority have become seasoned at other major events.

The field has combined for 69 provincial junior championships, 15 Canadian junior championships and six world junior championships.

It all bodes well for the future of the women's game, with former junior stars such as Kelly McKenzie of B.C., Stephanie Lawton of Saskatchewan, hot shot Jenn Hanna of Ontario and Jennifer Jones of Manitoba emerging as contenders at this level. Jones, at 30, is senior among those skips.

"I definitely think that's an important thing to look at," said Lawton, who won a Canadian junior title in 2000 but is a novice here.

"You can tell that the top juniors have been under pressure and will be able to deal with the pressure here. Having that kind of experience is definitely going to help everyone out."

Indeed Lawton, McKenzie and Jones, all Canadian junior champs, have been picked by many to be the "Next Ones" of women's curling, and Hanna showed everyone a thing or two yesterday when she upset four-time defending champion Colleen Jones.

"It's great to see so many of the former junior stars here," Colleen Jones said. "I won as a 21-year-old (in 1982), so what's to stop them from doing it? Nothing. It's not about age, it's about having your head in the right place. If you are mentally tough for this long roller-coaster week, that's what it takes to win."

Manitoba's Jones, with veterans Cathy Overton-Clapham and Cathy Gauthier on her team, isn't quite as much a newcomer as some of the others, but the Winnipeg lawyer still relishes the experience of three provincial junior titles and one national championship.

And she says the CCA's La Releve program, which develops budding curlers, has been a major contributor as well to the growth of the game among younger people.

"I think you are going to see a lot more of this, and hopefully we'll have some world championships too," she said.

SHE CAN CURL, TOO: Alberta second Raylene Rocque has had a vested interested in many Canadian and world curling championships, and she never threw a rock in one until yesterday.

Rocque, a 37-year-old from Edmonton, is married to Marcel Rocque, who happens to play lead for a skip named Randy Ferbey.

The Ferbey foursome, of course, won three Canadian and two world men's titles between 2001 and 2003.

Raylene was on hand for most of the big moments, but until now was never the one under pressure. She'll take this situation any day.

"Being on the ice is easier," she said. "He gets to watch me this time, and he'll be nervous for me because it's much easier to be out there playing."

Marcel is expected to provide support in St. John's next week, but Raylene says he's already done a lot for her game.

"Going to watch him in all the Briers has helped a lot," she said. "Watching him all those years made me want to be out there, and it's really great to finally get the chance."

PEBBLES: Attendance for yesterday's opening draw was 2,946, while the announced crowd was 2,557 for the evening draw ... By the numbers: Manitoba's best curler yesterday was lead Cathy Gauthier with 86%, while Jones came in at 83%, second Jill Officer at 80% and Overton-Clapham at 70%.


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