Most recreational golfers will never get the chance to play a round with Tiger Woods, but in the world of Lake Tahoe curling getting on the ice with an Olympian named John Benton was the equivalent this past weekend.
This is what happened when curlers from the Lake Tahoe Epic Curling club, or LTEC, showed up for a Labor Day tournament in Roseville, Calif., known as Crush this past weekend.
There were decades of curling experience on the ice between the 36 teams and national champion curlers that traveled from as far as Canada or Minnesota for the annual tournament.
For Tahoe’s LTEC curlers it was a shorter drive to pick up some new curling skills. The somewhat rookie curlers, the club was former eight months ago, soaked in the scene.
“Since so many of us are new to this, going to the bonspiel [curling tournament] really gave our game a huge boost,” LTEC curler Michael Lynn said. “You’re playing with serious curlers – people on the international stage, people who’ve been playing for twenty and thirty years, sometimes forty or fifty. And after each game, you can go grab a beer (or six) with them and learn even more!”
With about two years of curling under her belt, LTEC president Cherise Smith is a relative veteran in the club. The experience came in handy when the players were split into new teams, and Smith landed among the best. She got to play alongside Minnesota curler John Benton, a member of the U.S. men’s 2010 Olympic curling team.
“It was pretty damn awesome!” Smith said. “In what other sport can you be teammates with an Olympian after playing for such a short time?”
Playing with the best had its advantages. Smith and her team, which also included curling legend Eric “Onegee” Hazard, won the B event. Her team beat four well-experienced teams to take the title.
“Winning feels terrific — but so does learning and improving my game and being able to share what I’ve learned with other club members,” Smith said.
Teammates Diane Lewis, Chris Sullivan, Julie Macan and Michael Lynn, with a combined 3 ½ years of experience, faced off against a men’s team from the Lethbridge Curling Club in Alberta, Canada, who had nearly 200 years of combined experience.
“You think it’s gonna be a piece of cake, playing a bunch of seniors. But they’re Canadian seniors who’ve lived and breathed curling for longer than I’ve been on the planet,” Lewis said. “They kicked our butts – but it was pretty fun! You learn a lot, watching guys like that play.”
Fortunately, the winning team always buys a pitcher of beer for the losing team.
The LTEC plays at the South Lake Tahoe Ice Arena on Sunday evenings and walk-ons are welcome. Visit the club at TahoeCurling.com for more info.