Seniors travel the world to curl

Members of the Welcome the World seniors' curling group share a laugh while posing for a photo at the Prince Albert Golf and Curling Club on Thursday. Evan Radford/Daily Herald

In a country of only 52 curlers, Neven Pufnik needs to drive about 340 kilometres one way just to find a decent sheet of ice.

That’s why the 58-year-old Croatian has been participating in the annual Welcome the World senior’s curling, a travel group of curlers aged 50-plus that want to combine travel and their love of the sport to curl throughout the world.

The whole idea was conceived of and put into action by long-time Prince Albert residents Sherry and Bob Armstrong, both former teachers at Carlton high school.

The pair has since moved to Innisfil, Ont., which is where the Armstrongs first thought up the idea for the group of travelling curlers.

They were in P.A. Thursday with the group to throw some stones at the curling club.

“We wanted to do this, because senior curlers might not have the chance to travel the world and share our curling knowledge with others,” Sherry said as the approximately 50 curlers prepped to step out onto the ice.

Hence Neven Pufnik, who says there’s no curling for seniors in Croatia.

If he wants to curl, he has to drive to Budapest, Hungary from his home city of Zagreb just to find a curling rink. That drive is one country over, 340 kilometres northeast of Zagreb.

“Curling is a joy,” he said.

Neven Pufnik (yellow and black vest) watches to see if his team’s shot takes out his opponent’s stone at the Prince Albert Golf and Curling Club on Thursday. Evan Radford/Daily Herald

He hopes to grow the sport in his home country and make a pitch for Zagreb to host the C-level European championships next year.

Pufnik is a certified ice technician; he said he wants to use his knowledge of curling – and adequate ice sheets – to promote the sport on among the country’s young people, who are normally focussed on soccer.

He’s been travelling with Armstrong’s group since 2014.

Along with Pufnik, the curling club hosted people from Denmark, the United States and Ontario on Thursday.

Plans are already in place for the next two years, too: In 2018 the group will travel to Esbjerg, Denmark, and the following year it will travel to Naseby, New Zealand.