Curling-curious Traverse City resident Don Piche wanted to organize a club for years even though he knew little about the sport that draws its roots to 16th century Scotland.
Curling clubs dot towns across the Midwest and are common in Canada, so why not in northwest Michigan, he thought.
"I've had the guilty pleasure of watching for years," Piche told the Traverse City Record-Eagle (http://bit.ly/1h95G4t ). "I used to think, 'I hope nobody catches on that I sat here for the past two hours and have no idea what the hell happened.'"
Piche wasn't sure what kind of response his proposal would garner. Then 55 people turned out for a late March organizational meeting.
"Our hope is that by next winter we will be forming leagues," Piche said.
In the meantime, the group partnered with others from across Michigan to host a clinic at Centre ICE in Traverse City. The April 26 event will feature live curling matches and hands-on opportunities for future curlers free of charge.
Most of the potential curlers at the initial meeting have little or no experience with the sport, but at least seven of them did, Piche said.
One of those experienced curlers was Tyne Hyslop, a national champion curler in a seniors division.
Hyslop moved to Traverse City from Bowling Green, Ohio, last year and noticed something important missing.
"The one thing I had to give up when I left Bowling Green was curling," she said. "I probably have curled for 25 years at least and was a member of the Bowling Green curling team."
Hyslop's research of the region turned up a curling club in Lewiston, too far from Traverse City for a weekly trip for league curling, she said.
"No one could believe there wasn't a curling club in Traverse City," she said. "It's such a winter venue."
Hyslop said anyone who likes playing a challenging sport dominated by finesse and honor should enjoy curling.
"There's a lot of similarities between golf and curling," she said. "It's very much an honor sport," where participants call fouls on themselves.
There are still plenty of hurdles to overcome before a club forms in Traverse City, Piche said.
He's been working with the United States Curling Association to get paperwork started. It took four weeks for a call back from the national organization's club development coordinator, Piche said.
The organization experiences a surge in new membership following each winter Olympics.
And it's not a cheap sport to pick up. A set of competition stones — each weigh 44 pounds — can cost several thousand dollars, Piche said.
Usually clubs buy stones collectively to help defray costs. Visiting clubs will bring stones for the open house later this month.