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Ontario is All in the Family at Travelers Championship

It doesn’t happen very often that a mother gets to compete on the same team as her daughter with a Canadian championship on the line. It’s even more rare that it happens when that mother gets to play with two of her daughters.

Ontario lead Tracy Hiddink throws her rock as Lisa Jones (left) and Susan Cully, mother of Jones and skip Julie O’Neill, prepare to sweep during action at the 2016 Travelers Curling Club Championship in Kelowna, B.C. (Curling Canada/Jessica Krebs photo)

Ontario lead Tracy Hiddink throws her rock as Lisa Jones (left) and Susan Cully, mother of Jones and skip Julie O’Neill, prepare to sweep during action at the 2016 Travelers Curling Club Championship in Kelowna, B.C. (Curling Canada/Jessica Krebs photo)

For second Susan Cully of Lindsay, Ont., that’s reality this week. The Administrative Assistant with the City of Kawartha is throwing second rocks this week at the 2016 Travelers Curling Club Championship in Kelowna, B.C. on Team Julie O’Neill.

“The girls love it because they get to yell at me and I have to remember to just bite my tongue,” laughed Cully. “We get along and we’re very close and I have every confidence in both the girls in their decision making. We have a lot of fun times.”

O’Neill’s rink, with sister Lisa Jones at third, Cully at second and lead Tracy Hiddink, were late qualifiers into the Travelers Championship having just won the Ontario title a few weeks ago.

“It was unbelievable. I find words hard to describe. I’m just so thrilled that I’m able to curl with my daughters and do as well as we’ve done,” Cully said before stepping on the ice for the first time with the Ontario crest on her back.

Hiddink may not be related to her teammates but that doesn’t take anything out of her experience in the whirlwind ride the team has been on since winning their province.

“They have welcomed me like family. Yes, it’s unique for them, but I don’t feel left out at all and I’ve been included as part of this family,” Hiddink said before Jones affectionately jumped in to add: “We make fun of her just as much!”

O’Neil has been close to wearing the Ontario colours before, having been runner-up at a previous Travelers provincial championship in Ontario. Instead of stepping back, she used that runner-up experience to elevate her team to qualify for Kelowna.

“We were very confident going into our last game at provincials because we had been in the final three years before. We were determined this time we were going to do it. That helped us be more calm this time around.”

O’Neill praises the Travelers Curling Club Championship as an opportunity for curlers at a club level, particularly those in provinces with stronger elite teams, to shine.

Mother-and-daughter Ontario sweepers, Lisa Jones and Susan Cully (Curling Canada/Jessica Krebs photo)

Mother-and-daughter Ontario sweepers, Lisa Jones and Susan Cully (Curling Canada/Jessica Krebs photo)

“You have your Rachel Homan and your Jennifer Jones teams who are often going to be representing your province (at the Scotties) and this gives us club curlers who do have a competitive streak an opportunity to compete at the national level.”

O’Neill, a payroll and personnel employee at a maximum security prison in Eastern Ontario, has had the chance to rub shoulders with teams such as Homan by competing in Ontario women’s playdowns but this is her first national championship.

“At the end of the week we would like to make the playoffs but for now it’s one end and one rock at a time,” said the mother of two young children.

This isn’t the first time a mother and her two daughters have played down for a national championship at the Travelers event on the same team. In 2015 Tina Mazerolle rink consisted of the same dynamic. That team, also from Ontario, made the final of the women’s event in Ottawa.

The goal for these Ontario women in B.C. is similar. “Make the playoffs and just enjoy this time together,” said O’Neill.

The Lindsay Curling Club foursome are off to a perfect 2-0 start at the Travelers Championship this week. They squeaked out a narrow win over Alberta in Draw 1 and got past Nunavut in their second draw.

Elsewhere in women’s play, Nova Scotia’s Denise Fitzgerald improved to 2-0 with a win over British Columbia’s Kim Jonsson. Morgan Muise and her Alberta rink got past New Brunswick 8-6. Manitoba’s Tracy Andries edged Prince Edward Island’s women’s champions 5-4. Northwest Territories, idle in Draw 1, opened the Travelers with an 8-5 win over Northern Ontario. Newfoundland and Labrador improved to 2-0 in the standings with a 6-3 win over the Quebec champions from Riverbend Curling Club.

In men’s action, Ontario stayed perfect thanks to a 6-3 victory over Newfoundland and Labrador. The Ontario men also have a family connection with father Sandy Staples throwing lead stones on Wesley Forget’s rink. David Staples, Sandy’s son, throws third stones. Graham Rathwell rounds out the Ontario roster.

Also in the men’s Pool B Nova Scotia’s Kurt Roach and his Sydney rink moved to 2-0 after a narrow 7-6 decision against Yukon’s Pat Paslawski rink.

In men’s Pool A action Manitoba sits atop the standings with two wins. P.E.I and Saskatchewan have both played one game and emerged victorious in their starts.

Northern Ontario and Alberta are even at 1-1 in the men’s standings, while Nunavut and Quebec remain winless.

The 14 men’s and 14 women’s teams are split into two seven-team round-robin pools. After a single round-robin, the top three teams in each pool will make the playoffs. The first-place teams will be seeded directly into the semifinals, Friday, Nov. 25, at 7 p.m. (all times Pacific). The second- and third-place teams will meet in crossover quarter-finals Friday at 2 p.m., with the winners moving into the semis.

Selected games from the 2016 Travelers Curling Club Championships will be live-streamed at www.curling.ca/2016travelers/

Scores and standings from the event will be available at www.curling.ca/scoreboard/.

For draw times, team lineups and other event info, go to: www.curling.ca/2016travelers/

Selected games from the 2016 Travelers Curling Club Championships will be live-streamed at www.curling.ca/2016travelers/

Scores and standings from the event will be available at www.curling.ca/scoreboard/.

For draw times, team lineups and other event info, go to: www.curling.ca/2016travelers/