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Eau Claire Curling Club member to compete at senior world championships in Sweden

The Eau Claire Curling Club has over 300 members that participate in a number of leagues throughout the week. © 2016 Trent Tetzlaff

The Eau Claire Curling Club has over 300 members that participate in a number of leagues throughout the week. © 2016 Trent Tetzlaff


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By Trent Tetzlaff

Eau Claire Curling Club members participate in the their respective matches at the club. The building holds four sheets of ice for gameplay. © 2016 Trent Tetzlaff

Eau Claire Curling Club members participate in the their respective matches at the club. The building holds four sheets of ice for gameplay. © 2016 Trent Tetzlaff

When Geoff Goodland first moved to Eau Claire in 1977 to attend the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, he said the local curling scene was a lot different than it is today.

Goodland said the curling club was in a different location that was cramped, uninsulated and unheated. At the time, the club had very few members. However, in 1995 after the club had grown out of its old space, construction began on a new and improved facility that was opened in 1996.

“The original building was a pretty rough facility, but eventually we were able to build this new building,” he said. “The sport has really gained popularity since then, and membership has grown a lot.”

Goodland, a member of the team that will represent the United States at the 2016 World Senior Curling Championships in Karlstad, Sweden April 16 to the 23, said he is excited to represent Eau Claire and the U.S.

The men’s senior division of curling is made up of men 50 and up. Goodland and his team won the national senior title back in early February and add the trophy to the case alongside their 2007 and 2011 national championship wins.

Goodland said this year’s world championships will include 27 teams from all over the world that will each play eight round-robin matches for a chance to reach the quarterfinals. He said all of the teams entered have a fair chance at winning, it’s just a matter of who is playing well at the time.

“Once you get to the quarterfinals it’s simply just who’s hot,” he said. “You can be playing at a consistent level through that week, but any given time you step on the ice you could be playing a team that is hot and that could be the end of things.”

The Eau Claire Curling Club has over 300 members that participate in a number of leagues throughout the week. © 2016 Trent Tetzlaff

The Eau Claire Curling Club has over 300 members that participate in a number of leagues throughout the week. © 2016 Trent Tetzlaff

Goodland said his team is the only one from the U.S. as each country gets one team to represent them at the tournament. The team, Goodland said, is very well balanced as everyone does a little bit of everything, including Goodland who plays the skip position – the captain of the team that throws the final most crucial stones for the team each round.

The team of four consists of Goodland and three Minnesota curlers, Tim Solin, Pete Westberg and Jeff Annis. Solin and Westberg were a part of the 2011 national championship team with Goodland.

Although to this date, many still remain uneducated on the sport of curling, Goodland said it’s amazing what the Olympics have done when it comes to raising awareness about the sport around the country.

“Ever since the sport became televised more and more with the Olympics, it has really grown and our membership numbers go up as well,” he said. “People will come up to you and say they were watching it on TV and just how fun it was to watch.”

Goodland said with the increase of popularity over the past decade the club’s building has been put to good use – housing multiple leagues over the week and weekends.

“Club membership has went up from around 70 people to over 300 currently since the new building was built years ago,” he said.

With the larger number of members at the club, the weekly leagues have been split up to incorporate a larger amount of people. The club now has two shifts nightly, as eight teams play the early games, and the remaining eight on that night will play the later shift.

Along with encompassing more teams into the club, leagues have become less segregated over the past few years, Goodland said.

He said they no longer have strict men’s or women’s leagues on given nights, but rather they allow teams to be all men, all women or coed and play in the same weekly leagues, as they have learned that the ability level between men and women in the sport isn’t significant.

“This not only allows us to give both men and women members optimum scheduling for weekly leagues,” he said, “but people don’t realize how even the sport is between men and women, my men’s team has been beaten by women’s teams in the past. It’s more strategy than anything.”

Jeff Thompson, manager of the Eau Claire Curling Club, said another part of diversity that the club pushes is getting the younger generation involved in the sport.

He said the club has a very active junior program that meets on weekends with kids as young as 6 years old. Approximately 40 juniors from around the area are involved. Thompson said the club continues to work with the university to bring in even more young curlers.

“We are working with the university to offer more curling opportunities,” he said. “We are hoping to have a dedicated college league in conjunction with the newly reinvigorated UW-Eau Claire curling club beginning next season.”

As the club continues to grow, Thompson said they continue to host events to give people in the community the opportunity to try the sport out and get hooked. Curling lessons and partial season leagues are offered to new curlers to let them try it out with little commitment.

Although many members make up the Eau Claire Curling Club, as the world championships approach, all eyes are on Goodland.

Club President Sam Johnson said Goodland is someone that represents the game and the curling club well because he is very active and encourages the sport around the community.

But along with his work off of the ice to grow the sport in the community, Johnson said Goodland also is a leader on the ice and his experience is something that will be vital to a run at the world championships.

“Team USA, under Geoff’s leadership, will be very competitive on the world championship stage,” he said.  “The team not only has a lot of talent, but their experience in playing at this level will give them a distinctive edge.”

Goodland and Team USA will kick off the first of eight matches in round-robin play at 1:30 p.m. on April 15 when they face Russia in Karlstad.

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Eau Claire Curling Club member to compete at senior world championships in Sweden