Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Top-notch curling just part of being a Fowler

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BRANDON'S Fowler family hasn't just travelled the road of life, they've turned it into a curling caravan spanning almost four decades with 11 provincial titles between the four of them.

It all started with Brian's 1971 Manitoba high school championship (the forerunner to the provincial and national juniors), when a petite young Lois met him and started following his exploits on a sheet of ice.

Thousands of takeouts, draws and brush strokes later, the family that now is four with the additions of daughter Rhonda, 36, and son Rob, 33, is still more than in the thick of a game that is so much a part of the family fabric.

"We spend a lot of lunch hours together at the Brandon Curling Club, we practise a lot -- a lot," said Lois, 54, one of the favourites in the 2009 Mondetta Manitoba Senior Women's Championship that got underway Thursday at the Fort Garry Curling Club.

"And the kids are with us quite often, we've even got our grandkids now starting to throw rocks. And we have a lot of discussions around the dinner table in the evening, sometimes it's about strategy or a missed shot or whatever.

"... We all kind of eat, sleep and breathe it in the winter."

Do they ever. The couple was in Neepawa a couple of weeks ago as daughter Rhonda Ritchie played on Maureen Bonar's rink at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts, with Lois coaching the crew.

They were in Selkirk last weekend when Rob, playing second for Jeff Stoughton and being named an all-star at the Safeway Championship, won a trip to the Tim Hortons Brier in Calgary March 7-15 with a victory over Kerry Burtnyk.

This week they're in Winnipeg -- Lois is skipping her team at an event she's never won, while Brian is coaching the team -- and the pair will be watching Rob compete at the Brier in Calgary next weekend.

Brian confirms the couple was brought together by curling in the first place, and it's been broom bliss ever since, even despite 2006 when they both lost provincial senior curling finals within 20 minutes of each other, he in Melita and she in Winnipeg.

Both Rhonda and Rob come by their love for the game honestly. They'd both be down in the basement with Dad or Mom as kids, playing on a shuffleboard that had been fitted with curling rings to teach the strategy of the game.

And when they were teens, the kids joined Mom and Dad in a fun mixed bonspiel that Lois recalls vividly.

"I was sitting on the bench yakking at people on the next sheet and Rob came sliding by me and said 'Mom, we're here to curl. Not to visit.' "

The curling highlight for both is the 1993 national Scott Tournament of Hearts in Brandon, when Lois's team -- which included Rhonda on the front end -- lost the final in an extra end to Sandra Peterson (Schmirler). Brian was the unofficial coach for the foursome.

"That was probably the most special part for me," Brian said. Lois added: "We were four little innocent country girls that won a provincials, went on to Canadians and it mushroomed from there."

The couple loves playing golf in the summer, "but the curling's the key to it all," says Lois. "We just all enjoy supporting each other."

The Fowler file

Lois: Four provincial women's championship wins (1993, 1996, 1998, 2004); one provincial mixed title (1998)

Brian: One provincial junior title (1971); one provincial men's title (1987)

Rhonda: One provincial women's championship win (1993)

Rob: Two provincial men's titles (2007, 2009); one provincial mixed title (1998)

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 27, 2009 C2

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