By Dakota Antelman, Contributing Writer
Marlborough – Ken Torris first saw curling in 1998 while watching the winter Olympics that year. Nearly 20 years later, he and a group of Metrowest-area curlers have partnered to create the Marlboro Curling Club.
Based at the New England Sports Center, the Marlboro Curling Club aims to further the sport of curling in a part of Massachusetts that currently lacks a local club. Torris hopes to build a community of curlers that will ultimately help expand the sport and bring high level competition to the area.
“This is an opportunity to be a part of something new,” Torris said. “We wanted to start a new club and see where we can take it.”
The group’s first planning meeting was in March. For its organizers, the first order of business was setting up an open house for interested curlers and community members.
The Marlboro Curling Club finally hosted that open house Aug. 7, bringing in instructors from Broomstones club in Wayland to offer short group lessons to local citizens. After weeks of promotions online and throughout the Marlborough area, the open house ended up drawing in more than a hundred visitors.
“I wanted to learn the basics of the game and learn the fundamentals of it,” Jensen Martinez, a Spencer native trying curling for the first time, explained. “Obviously in 45 minutes you’re not going to learn everything, but it’s definitely something to keep you interested and even sign up if you want to do it again.”
Martinez, like Torris, first learned about curling from the Olympics. He remembers watching in 2014 and discussing the matches with his colleagues. He said these discussions continued after the Olympics and eventually drew him to the Marlboro Curling Club.
“We were curious about it and kind of intrigued about it,” Martinez said. “It’s not the kind of sport that you see all too often being played locally. So when we were given the opportunity to try it, we thought we might as well do it.”
Unlike Martinez, Reggie Wilcox, another attendee of the open house, was making his return to the sport.
Wilcox has curled in San Francisco and Wayland over the past five years. He became fascinated with the sport in 2010 while he was in college and saw the Olympic tournament in Vancouver, but had to step aside recently when he broke his leg playing hockey. The open house, he said, was him “just getting back out there.”
“They like to meet new people and get new people involved in their sport,” Wilcox said of the curling community. “Especially in the states, because it’s not as popular here, they like to get a bigger community to follow curling and get more people involved in it.”
Torris echoed this, saying that thanks to the broadcasts of Olympic curling over the past two decades, the sport is enjoying rapid growth.
“There have been discussions going on for the better part of the last 20 years about bringing curling to this facility,” he said. “Twenty years ago, it was a fringe sport. A lot of people now know it from the Olympics. They recognize that it’s popular and that there are a lot of people who want to do it.”
Torris has been part of curling clubs for 14 years. In 2002, he joined Broomstones, alongside 400 other prospective curlers at an open house. That year, he was part of a surge of new participants who were introduced to the sport by the Olympics.
Since then, Torris has observed similar surges coinciding with each new round of Olympic play. In fact, so regular is this surge that Torris and the Marlboro Curling Club are factoring in the 2018 Olympics as part of their long-term plan.
“[Starting our club now] gives us an opportunity to get in here before the next Olympics and establish a club,” Torris said. “Then, once the Olympics happen, I think we will be looking at something that we can actually expand to seven days a week.”
The Marlboro Curling Club will run a “learn-to-curl” program this fall, and plans to start league play early next year. It will also host a second open house Sunday, Aug. 21, at 6 p.m. at the New England Sports Center. For more information, visit marlboroughcurlingclub.org.