Throwing stones

Published Monday, February 5, 2007 9:41:58 AM Central Time

By Shannon Green

MONROE -- Most people wouldn't know what an "eight end" is, but if you ever get one, you can boast about it.

Mary Alice Hart and Bill Schager, both of Monroe, sweep to clear a stone's path as teammate Robert Rufi, Monroe, and opponent Carla Lynch, Madison, watch. The match was part of the 41st Annual Invitational Mixed Bonspiel held over the weekend at the Alpine Curling Club in Monroe.
Times photo: Shannon Green

An eight end is curling's equivalent to a 300 in bowling, or a hole in one in golf -- it's a perfect score.

While no team at the 41st Annual Invitational Mixed Bonspiel over the weekend got a perfect score, they didn't mind. The camaraderie, fun and food made it more than worth the time, money and effort.

The curling tournament at Monroe's Alpine Curling Club attracted 16 teams from Monroe, Chicago, Milwaukee, Janesville, Madison, Racine, Kettle Moraine and Portage.

Robert Rufi, Monroe, demonstrates his curling form during the 41st Annual Invitational Mixed Bonspiel at the Alpine Curling Club in Monroe over the weekend. Rufi's team took second place to Doug Boyd's team from Chicago after a tight final match.
Times photo: Shannon Green

Although he wasn't curling, Jerry Seidl, 85, Janesville, a retired dentist, is one of the few with the right to boast of an eight end.

He's been curling since 1948, "since before most of the curlers (at the bonspiel) were born," Seidl said with a laugh.

In those days, curlers threw the 42-pound stones, rather then push them, as they do today. They also didn't slide as far as curlers do today.

Seidl has curled in 31 consecutive bonspiels at Alpine. Although he wasn't curling at this year's bonspiel, he still plays; he curled four games last week.

Seidl learned to curl while living in Medford.

"What can you do in a town of 3,000? We skied, curled and had two children," Seidl said with a grin.

He pointed out a new item used by curlers: sticks to push the stone into play -- so they can avoid having to crouch behind the stone, which aggravates knees, hips and backs.

"I don't use them; that's for old people," Seidl laughed.

Monroe curler Mary Alice Hart uses one, although she's only 64.

"It's too hard on the knees" to crouch behind the stone, Hart said.

Hart is an avid curler and has been active in the sport for 34 years.

"It really makes the winter go fast," Hart said. "It makes me look forward to winter."

Hart serves on the Green County Board of Supervisors and is a retired teacher for the Monroe school district.

Hart enjoys curling in part because all ages can complete equally, she noted.

"Youth doesn't necessarily trump the seniors" in curling, Hart said.

Joey Norton, 84, agrees with Hart.

"I think it's the best sport going. Everybody's important all the time," Norton said of the four-person teams. "Either you're throwing the stone or sweeping or calling the shots."

Norton curled for 35 years, with her husband, John. She remembers when the Alpine club was formed during the early 1960s.

"I was one of the founders of women's curling here," Norton said.

She noted that fewer people curl today.

"The biggest change was (when) all the women went to work," Norton said, adding that now people have "too many distractions," such as television and video games.

While she no longer curls, she still attends the bonspiels.

"It's three days of total relaxation," Norton said.


Local club hopes Olympic exposure will bring members
Published Tuesday, February 7, 2006 8:11:40 AM Central Time
By Gary Johnson
Times Assistant Sports Editor

MONROE -- With NBC set to broadcast 26 curling matches, 15 of them live, at the Turin Olympics, a sport known mostly to those who play it will become
a household name within the next two weeks.

Above, Mary Alice Hart and Bill Schager, both of Monroe, sweep the ice in front of their rock in the Alpine Curling Club's mixed bonspiel Sunday.
Times photo: Gary Johnson

Curling traces its origins to Scotland as far back as 1511 with the first recorded tournament having taken place in 1541. Curling then made its way into Canada in the mid-1700s and was an Olympic sport in the 1924 and 1932 Winter Games. The sport had a 
hiatus from the Winter Olympics until the 1998 Nagano Olympics.

Curling has been a competitive sport in Monroe since Oct. 12, 1960 when the Alpine Curling Club was incorporated by Edward Adams, Bob Goetz, Herb Ainsworth and Ned Walker. The Alpine Curling Club building that now sits at 1319 31st Ave. in Monroe had its groundbreaking in July of 1963 where it has operated ever since.

According to long-time member Bob Rufi, there are currently about 160 members at Alpine with leagues for men, women, mixed and youth taking place throughout the Winter.

The Alpine Curling Club is operated under the direction of a board of directors with Duke Goetz as its president. Goetz emphasized that manners are of the utmost importance in the sport of curling.

"Curling is a gentlemen's sport. Courtesy to fellow players is always the most important (thing)," Goetz said.

Members of Alpine have options of playing in one or more local leagues as well as competing in bonspiels, both locally and in other cities.

A bonspiel, loosely translated, means curling tournament and is the internationally used term. Monroe hosts numerous bonspiels throughout the season, including a mixed couples bonspiel that had
12 teams last weekend entered from throughout the region.

Eighty-four-year-old Jerry Siedel from Janesville was in Monroe for his 31st year at the mixed couples competition and has been curling since 1948.

"Everything has changed. We didn't have Teflon for our shoes back then, or refrigerated ice," Siedel said. He reminisced about the days when there would be inches of water on the ice because the temperatures outside had become so warm.

But warmer temperatures didn't stop play -- they just had to learn to "roll" the stone to help it go through the water.

He has traveled as far away as Scotland to curl and made regular trips to western and northern Minnesota. He points to his age as evidence that curling is a sport for anyone at any age.

Natalia Goetz, wife of Duke Goetz, is a new curler going through her first year in the sport.

She moved to the Untied States from Russia a few years ago and despite the fact her hometown in Russia experienced cold weather, she did not see curling for the first time until watching the 2002 Salt Lake City games on television in Russia.

"I had struggles with it at first. But it is enjoyable. It is more physical than it looks," Natalia said.

That curling is not physical is one of the many myths about the sport. Paula Ludwig refutes that claim. 
"You can run up to three miles in a match," Ludwig said. When sweeping, players run the 146-foot length of the ice while sweeping.

Members of the Alpine Curling Club and other 
players attending the mixed couples bonspiel sought 
to dispel other myths about the sport.

"It is not like shuffle board," Cathy Kase of Delafield said.

Others pointed out that it is not an expensive sport as many assume it to be.

"It's less expensive than bowling," Monroe's Brian Woelfel said. Woelfel has been curling for nine years and is an avid athlete who competes in many sports such as basketball and volleyball. He likes curling because it is a finesse game and creates a camaraderie between its players that is unique.

Rufi has been Alpine's icemaker for the past 31 years. He said the strategy of curling sets it apart from many other sports

"It's like chess on ice," Rufi said. Players not only have to possess the skill to place their stone or sweep it
into a certain position, but also to place it in a position that will have its intended effect three or four plays later.

Many players also appreciate the game's social value, including the fact that barriers are broken down. "The best friends I have are the people I have met through curling," Beth Holmes of Monroe said.

Curling is also described as the ultimate team sport in that individual statistics are never kept --the only thing that matters at the end of the game is how the team fared.

Whether it is a win or a loss, both are always done with grace.

He's got the ice thing down cold

Published Friday, January 27, 2006 7:58:44 AM Central Time
By Judie Hintzman of The Times

MONROE -- Bob Rufi has an engaging grin and a hearty -- and frequent -- laugh. He openly displays warm affection for his family and his friends. And people in general, for that matter.

Nonetheless, he's a coldly passionate man when it comes to ice.

Rufi has voluntarily been making ice for the Alpine Curling Club for 31 years and many credit his efforts as a vitally important component in the group's determination to keep the organization off the slippery slope of indifference toward the sport.

Born and raised on the family farm near Monroe, the Monroe High School graduate was a dairy farmer until 1988 when he quit milking and started a commercial hay business, which he operates today. His interest in curling also led him to start Alpine Curling Supply in 1987.

And all things curling are his passion.

"Curling is a pretty unique sport," Rufi explains, noting it was called the "roaring game" when it first began in Scotland and "sweepers" had to sweep the snow off the ice to keep the "rocks" moving. Curling is the same sport all over the world, he says, and it's especially popular in Wisconsin, which boasts at least 30 curling clubs.

Bob Rufi of Monroe has been making ice for the Alpine Curling Club for 31 years. He not only prepares the ice during a weeks-long process before the season begins in the late fall, he returns to the club at least once - often more than once a week to keep the surface in optimal playing condition.
Times photo: Brenda Steurer

And, he says, one of the best things about it is that curlers are just ordinary folks. "Curlers are 'next-door' people," he says.

If he's enthusiastic about the sport, Rufi's equally enthralled with all things related to ice making.

"A person that makes ice can't have a 'real' job," Rufi laughs as he describes the ins and outs of ice making, which has become much more technical with passing years.

He even went to ice making "school" in Windsor, Ontario, Canada to learn to make better ice. Rufi starts making ice in October, a few weeks before the season starts. The process involves a sand base interwoven with pipes that pump a "brine" of anti-freeze solution under the surface that freezes the ice. A compressor pumps the brine under the ice and when the season ends, the compressor is shut down and the ice melts. But the process is much more involved than that, although Rufi modestly points out that "most of it's just common sense -- the kind of things you learned on the farm." In the fall, Rufi first sprays the base several times so the sand becomes saturated, "cooling everything down." He later floods the area until he gets about a half-inch of ice. Once the suface is frozen and prepared, he and other volunteers paint the markings on the ice needed for curling, using a special white polarized paint.

The result is a cold room that somewhat resembles a small-scale gymnasium or bowling alley -- except the surface is white.

And very cold.

Once the surface is ready for play, Rufi's icemaking chores begin in earnest. His explanation sprinkled heavily with words like "pebbles" and "burner" and "scraper," Rufi estimates he spends at least one full afternoon a week maintaining the ice, and, of course, he's there to keep the surface in playable condition when people are curling.

The curlers are particular about the ice they play on and Rufi can sometimes take some heat if a player thinks the ice isn't in optimal condition. But he takes it all pretty good-naturedly. "I enjoy coming and making ice," he said and laughed, "then I say 'now we have to let the animals in.'"

His wife Barb also smiles good-naturedly, albeit with somewhat raised eyebrows, when she talks about her husband's affinity for the ice. She said he sometimes -- maybe too often -- wakes up in the middle of the night to go out to the Curling Club and work on or check the surface.
But ice making isn't the only thing Rufi does for the Alpine Curling Club. He promotes it night and day and is especially enthusiastic about getting young people interested. Call him, he says, at (608) 325-6365 or take a look at the Web site, which has a quick tutuorial on curling, at Or e-mail him at -- what else? --

Rufi, who has cut his actual curling time down to once a week, enjoys robust health and will keep making ice as long as he's able. But he's determined to pass on his expertise to new icemakers and hopes some will come along who will want to take on the task.

Meanwhile, anyone who doubts his passion for ice need only pull up behind the Rufi's van at a stop sign in Monroe.

The license plate says it all: "ICE MKR."

If you were allowed three wishes for the Curling Club, what would they be?
Continue the traditions, camaraderie, and friendship of Alpine Curling Club

What are the curling club's biggest hurdles to continuing success?
Create more interest, increase membership, and get more members involved.

What are the club's greatest assets?
It is a family sport and you can curl from age 6 to 100 for a reasonable price.

What is the one burning question you're dying to know the answer to?
What happens to the white when snow melts?

What's your most favorite chore?
Preparing the ice for a new season

If there were a news story written about your life, what would the headline read?
"The Icemaker has changed the ice again."

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