The four rinks that have qualified for the Ontario Scott Tournament of Hearts later this month should count their blessings.
The field that started play in the Challenge Round yesterday at Milton is, as Marilyn Bodogh put it, taking the "blood, sweat and tears" route to deciding two more teams for the 10-rink provincial championship which starts Jan. 24 in Fort Frances and will determine Ontario's rep in the Canadian Scott Tournament of Hearts Feb. 25- March 5 at the John Labatt Centre.
Bodogh, of St. Catharines, is one of the lucky four, as are defending champion Jenn Hanna of Ottawa, Chrissy Cadorin of Guelph and Janet McGhee of Uxbridge.
The Challenge Round includes three former provincial champions -- four-time winner Anne Merklinger of Ottawa Rideau, three-time champ Sherry Middaugh of Coldwater and two-time winner Alison Goring of Thornhill Bayview.
Jo-Ann Rizzo of Brant, who has Sara Gatchell and Kim Tuck of Strathroy as her front end, is also entered, as are Amy Coward of Ilderton and Stacey Brandwood of Hamilton Glendale, whose third is Kerry Lackie of London. Perennial provincial contenders Colleen Madonia of Mississauga and Kathy Brown of Sutton are in as well, making for a tough slog for whichever two teams survive. They will join four Northern Ontario rinks in Fort Frances.
Single-day tickets for the national Hearts go on sale Monday at the JLC box office. The $30 tickets are good for the round-robin draws Feb. 25-March 2. Tickets for the playoff draws go on sale with the rest of the single-draw tickets in mid-February.
As well, the entertainment for the opening night party has been set. Country act Doc Walker will perform at the HeartStop Lounge at the convention centre starting at 7 p.m. The group earned a 2003 Juno nomination for best country recording and have five nominations for this year's Canadian Country Music Association awards. Tickets are $15 plus tax and applicable charges and can be obtained by calling 488-10121 or at www.ticketmaster.ca.
Men's field almost set
Eight of the 10 spots for the Kia Cup Ontario men's championship Feb. 6-12 in Guelph have been decided after regional playdowns last weekend. Moving on are defending champion Wayne Middaugh of Toronto St. George's, 2004 champ Mike Harris of Oakville, 2003 winner Bryan Cochrane of Ottawa, Pat Ferris of Owen Sound Grey Granite, Dale Matchett of Churchill, Todd Brandwood of Hamilton Glendale, Rob Todd of Brant and Willie Jeffries of Huntley.
The other two qualifiers will come from the two Challenge Rounds, which opened yesterday at Trenton (East) and Stroud (West). Kirk Ziola and Wayne Tuck of Ilderton, three-time provincial runner-up Phil Daniel of Tilbury, Heath McCormick of Sarnia and Glenn Howard of Coldwater are among the teams competing in the West round.
Chance for payback
Two years ago, Jim Lyle saw his debut at the Ontario senior men's championship end with a 6-5, extra-end loss to Bob Turcotte of Scarborough, who went on to his fourth provincial title. The pair are among eight teams that begin play in the provincial championships Wednesday in Brantford.
"If we play like we did at regionals, then I think we have a good chance to get to the playoffs," said Lyle, who has Larry Smyth at third, Pete DeKoning at second and Ted Smith at lead.
Lyle won four Ontario intermediate (40-and-over) crowns in five seasons ending in 2004. "But age and diminishing abilities are forcing us into senior," he joked.
Among the eight women's entries is Jane Galloway and her Ilderton rink of Diane Winser, Susan Davies and Barb Prohaszka.
The two champions advance to the nationals March 25-April 1 in P.E.I.
Around the house
The 96th annual City of London men's bonspiel winds up today, with the finals in all six events set for the London Curling Club at 5 p.m . . . It wasn't a happy new year for the local entries at the Ontario juniors at Toronto Tam Heather. Scott McDonald of Highland and Mark Kean of Woodstock both went 2-5, while Leanne Elston of Wingham was 1-6 . . . Zone playdowns are on this week for masters men and women (60 and over) at Teeswater (Zone 14), St. Thomas (15) and Chatham Granite (16) . . . Zone playdowns are this weekend in bantam boys (16 and under) at Vanastra (14), St. Marys (15) and Highland (16); the bantam girls' playdowns are at Wingham, St. Marys and Highland.