This year marks the Palmetto Curling Club’s 10th anniversary. The club has met on Tuesday nights at the Pavilion Recreational Complex in Taylors since 2010. This season, the club is moving to its own dedicated ice rink for the first time.
The new rink, which Palmetto Curling Club will share with the Carolina Rage youth hockey league, is located at 211 School St. in Greer.
Daniel Fort, a current board member who was one of the club’s founding members, says he expects the membership to grow this year, but it currently stands at an average of 85 members.
Every Olympic year, curling grows exponentially. Typically, the number of players doubles in membership across the U.S., according to Fort. The Vancouver Olympics in 2010 first inspired Fort to reach out to Beau Welling, a Greenvillian who competed on the U.S. Curling Team.
“I fell in love with curling in the 1998 Olympics, but it was 12 years before I touched my first curling stone,” Fort says. “In 2010, I saw an article in the news about Beau Welling competing in Vancouver, so I looked him up on Facebook and said ‘Hey, I’m in Greenville and have wanted to curl for 12 years; let’s do this.’”
Together with Welling, who currently sits on the board of the World Curling Federation, Fort formed the Palmetto Curling Club.
It was the first curling club in South Carolina. Now there are two additional clubs, in Charleston and Columbia, but it’s still an unusual sport in the South. Fort says, “We’d be at the bonspiels [tournaments] and people would ask, ‘You’re from South Carolina and you curl?’”
Did you know? Almost all curling rocks come from the same quarry of granite in Scotland named Ailsa Craig.
Palmetto Curling Club offers a free open house before each season starts, during which first-timers can learn to curl. The last two for the spring season are at 7 p.m. Feb. 23 and 27.
The club is primarily social. At present, membership is open to men and women above the age of 18, and Fort reports that the club’s oldest member is in his late 70s. In its new home, the club’s leadership is hoping to expand membership to junior throwers aged 10-12. Palmetto Curling Club also offers paracurling with wheelchairs donated by the Roger C. Peace Center.
Fort says he’s excited to see the coming growth the Ice Station move will allow. “We’ve been limited on our ice time, because there’s hockey, ice skating, curling, and everyone needs ice time. With the expansion of the Pavilion, there will be additional common areas, but currently there is no handicap access to the common area because of the stairs.”
Due to the renovations, the club’s normal 10-12 week schedule would have been shortened to five or six weeks had they not been able make the Ice Station move.
The 2020 Spring League began Feb. 25. Those interested in learning to curl or joining the league can find more information at www.palmettocurling.com.