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Guelph's Adam Spencer takes unusual route to the Brier

An injury to Wayne Middaugh opened the door for Spencer to join Glenn Howard's rink at the Brier next month

After an absence of almost 70 years, there'll be an Adam Spencer in this year's Tim Hortons Brier.

"My great uncle whose name was Adam Spencer was a curler and he played in the 1947 Brier," Guelph's Adam Spencer said Wednesday night prior to men's league play at the Guelph Curling Club. "It is ironic that there's two Adam Spencers in the family and we both played in the Brier - or are going to play in the Brier."

The current-day Adam Spencer, who thinks he could "possibly" have been named after his great uncle, qualified for this year's Brier as a fill-in player on Ontario champion Glenn Howard's rink. Howard suggested that Spencer put his name in the alternate pool for last week's Ontario Recharge with Milk Men's Tankard at Brantford's Wayne Gretzky

Sports Centre after Howard's usual vice, Wayne Middaugh, suffered four fractures below the knee in a skiing accident early last month.

"Typically every men's provincials there's a spare pool list and it's normally comprised of people who live in the immediate area," Spencer said. "This year because of what happened to Wayne, as soon as my team lost out of the challenge round and weren't able to make it to the provincials, Glenn contacted me and asked me if I could put an application into the spare pool, which I was obviously happy to do. The reason being they wanted to be able to use me if my application was accepted."

The call came after Spencer and the Brent Ross team of the Harriston Curling Club were ousted from the Ontario Men's Tankard Challenge Round in mid-January at the Penetanguishene Curling Club.

The Howard rink wanted Spencer on their team due to their familiarity with him.

"Earlier in the season I played in two spiels with Team Howard in the first Slam of the year out in St. John's, Nfld., and the following weekend in Cornwall," Spencer said. "So between the two spiels we'd had about 13 or 14 games together against some of the best teams in the world. Taking that guesswork out of figuring out a new player in the middle of the competition was key to them which is why they wanted me to enter the spare pool."

Spencer also filled in for Middaugh early in the season when Middaugh was unable to get time off work as a golf pro at the Port Carling Golf & Country Club.

"When they were kicking around names, mine was one of the names that came up and they contacted me," Spencer said. "You can't really say 'no' to one of the best teams in the world.

The 43-year-old Spencer will cherish the way he qualified for his first appearance in the Brier as he swept Howard's final rock that scored two in the 10th and final end to edge John Epping of Toronto's Donalda Club 6-5 in the championship match.

"We were rolling through the round robin and everything, and then lost the one-two game," Spencer said. "We had a really good (semifinal) game against (Mike) Harris and then we got to that final game. It was a real emotional battle back and forth. We managed to get the scoreboard worked out in our favour where we had the hammer in the 10th end only down one. I don't know what the exact stats are, but often times teams are able to get their two.

"The problem was we were running out of time and didn't have a lot of time to make decisions. We just told Glenn 'You got this' kind of thing and he threw a nice rock. We swept it down there and the rocks all made contact. I did a double and triple take to make sure we were lying two and we were. Everything's pretty much a blur since then."

That it would take until this year for Spencer to qualify for his first Brier appearance seemed an impossibility back in 1992 when he skipped a Guelph Curling Club team to the Ontario junior men's title. And just a couple of weeks ago he thought it wouldn't happen this year, either.

"It's crazy," Spencer said. "I don't even know how to describe it. I went from thinking my season was essentially over to (going) to the Brier. It's just been surreal."