ROGERS sportanet Magazine

Life on the rocks

Curling has earned Wayne and Sherry Middaugh a Million-dollar lifestyle, but they'll soon settle down to spend more time at home with the kids. Honest. Right after the Olympics.

John Gordon December 6 2004
ROGERS sportanet Magazine

Life on the rocks

Curling has earned Wayne and Sherry Middaugh a Million-dollar lifestyle, but they'll soon settle down to spend more time at home with the kids. Honest. Right after the Olympics.

John Gordon December 6 2004

Life on the rocks

Curling has earned Wayne and Sherry Middaugh a Million-dollar lifestyle, but they'll soon settle down to spend more time at home with the kids. Honest. Right after the Olympics.

John Gordon

FROM THE ROAD, THE HOUSE IS UNREMARKABLE. IT SITS ON A BACK street in the hamlet of Victoria Harbour, on the shore of Lake Huron’s Georgian Bay and, at first glance, it’s just another cottage. Not a lot of curb appeal.

But the late-model Cadillac STS, brand-new Infiniti G35, and Oldsmobile minivan hint that there might be more than the average amount of disposable income lying around.

Then there’s the revolving front door.

OK, so there’s not really a revolving front door, but there should be. In this house live Canada’s most notable curling couple. And, occasionally, to the likely surprise of their family, friends and neighbours, both Wayne and Sherry Middaugh are there at the same time.

Even long-time curling analyst Bob Weeks marvels at their arrangement. “The question that I’ve never been able to figure out is how they manage to both compete at the highest level, year after year, with a young family. They both seem to be jetting off to bonspiels at opposite ends of the country all winter long. It’s got to be an amazing juggling act, and I wonder when they ever see each other.”

Like the people themselves, seemingly an average couple in their mid-30s with two young daughters, this house is not what it seems. A low-slung bungalow from the road, the cathedral-ceilinged, glass-fronted interior faces one of the most spectacular bodies of water in the world.

A 24-foot cabin cruiser - the Out-turn Heater, named after Wayne’s signature shot - and a

sportsnet ROGERS^* ^ ^ WORLD CURLING TOUR

Jet-Ski share dock space. You can see them from the hot tub on the sprawling deck, just beyond the house’s towering glass windows.

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It’s not like going to Augusta for Hie Masters

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On a late fall day, the Middaughs spend a rare day at home together, one of few such occasions since they first hooked up nine years ago at a charity bonspiel in Thunder Bay, Ont. Shortly after that meeting, Sherry moved from her Saskatchewan birthplace to join Wayne.

“It was a good fit right from when we met,” says Wayne, who has been the director of golf at the nearby Midland Golf and Country Club for eight years. “Sherry is a pretty good golfer, too, so we had that in common in the [curling] off-season. She spent her summers at a cottage, so she wasn’t uncomfortable living here and being on a boat, and that’s how I grew up, too.” Curled up in an easy chair in the expansive family room, Sherry agrees that, apart from their sporting lives, their ideal lifestyles were compatible. “I’m from small-town Saskatchewan, so living up here seems quite comfortable,” she says. “It wasn’t like moving to Toronto, for example. This has been a very easy adjustment.”

Other changes weren’t quite so seamless. Wayne recalls the pre-family era when he worked as an assistant golf professional

at St. George’s Golf and Country Club in Toronto and then curled every weekend from the end of September until Christmas.

“I never missed a weekend,” he recalls with a smile. “I absolutely loved it. Now I’m sick of the travel, and I want to be home more.”

The Middaughs began to trim their travel schedules with the arrival of Kelly, who turned five in August. In Kelly’s first few months, Sherry took her along to bonspiels. After that, the curling couple made sure at least one of them stayed home all the time. Emily came along two years ago, and the Middaughs had an even tougher time leaving home.

But leave home they must, especially Wayne. Unlike Sherry’s rink, his has not secured a berth in the trials for the 2006 Winter Olympics. For her part, Sherry must keep playing to ensure her rink stays sharp and competitive. On the occasions when they must be away simultaneously, Wayne’s parents move in and babysit.

“Our whole schedules are geared around the Olympic trials and the Olympics,” Wayne says. “Unfortunately, those events are scheduled on the same weekends for the men and the women.

“My dad and mom basically said to us, ‘We’ll give you to the Olympics and that’s it. We’ll take care of the kids. You go away and curl. Give it 100 per cent, do everything you can to try to get there. But after that, that’s it. We’re not going to take care of your kids again for four days at a crack.’”

At the moment, those four days generally go like this, says Wayne: “Thursday night at 8,

we’ll jump on planes going in different directions. We’ll play Friday, Saturday, Sunday and sometimes Monday, and then come home. You’re home Tuesday, Wednesday, and then Thursday night, you’re back at the airport again.”

“Just enough to unpack, do some laundry and do it all over again,” says Sherry, who now dreads the monotonously similar hotel rooms and restaurant meals.

“It’s not like going to Augusta for The Masters or going to the British Open in Scotland,” notes Wayne. “It’s generally small towns or cities, and you’re going back and forth from the hotel to the curling club, and it’s usually the same small towns. I’ve been 10 times to Florenceville,

for example.” His facial expression clearly indicates that Florenceville, N.B., has little in

common with Florence, Italy, which, at last check, consisted of considerably more than a Mc-

Cain’s plant and a curling rink.

For all the monotony and sacrifice, the financial rewards have

been significant. Last year, Wayne’s rink divided $200,000 in tax-free winnings, Sherry’s about half of that. M&M Meat Shops, their major sponsor, covers their expenses.

But their friends and neighbours in Midland can soon expect to see more of the Middaugh family once their Olympic quest ends. Increasingly, Wayne and Sherry regret that they can’t immerse themselves in the recreational nirvana they call home. Like all parents, they want to watch their daughters grow up.

“We wouldn’t trade this lifestyle for anything. Not anything,” says Wayne. “We’re finding we’d rather be home with our kids. We’re getting tired of the travel. It’s exhausting. If I could curl at Coldwater [a nearby club], I’d curl every day. I love the game, but it’s getting to be too much.

“This is what we do for fun. The fact that we make a few bucks from it is a bonus. It looks great on paper, believe me. Tell people you’re a golf pro, and they think you play all day, give a few lessons, have dinner at the club and then go home. Same thing with curling. They say, ‘Oh, yeah, you get to play in Vegas and all over the place. They pay you hundreds of thousands of dollars. What a life.’ Except it’s not like that at all.

“Every job, everybody else’s life, you always think the grass is greener. That’s just not the way it is. We’re just very fortunate that we both love what we do.

“If we can win and play well, we can win a bit of extra money, but we’re not ever going to win a million dollars.”

That doesn’t seem to matter. For Wayne and Sherry Middaugh, the million-dollar lifestyle will have to suffice. ^

Rogers Sportsnet golf analyst John Gordon is a member at

Midland G&CC.

WAYNE’S WORLD SHERRY’S WORLD

Wayne Middaugh is the only skip ever to have back-to-back 100% games. Other highlights of his curling career include: 1-TIME:

M & M Meat Shops Grand Slam Champion Canadian Open Grand Slam Champion 2-TIME:

Ontario, Canadian & World Champion Canadian Olympic Trials competitor 5-TIME:

World Curling Tour Players Champion First-team Brier All-star 6-TIME:

Provincial Men’s Champion 7-TIME:

McCain/TSN Skins Champion

Sherry Middaugh has won more money than any other skip in women’s curling every year since 1997. Among her other accomplishments:

1-TIME:

All-Star skip

Team North America member,

Continental Cup 2-TIME:

Winner, TSN/JVC Women’s Skins Game 3-TIME:

Canadian Olympic Trials competitor Bronze medallist, Scott Tournament of Hearts