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U.S. curling pioneer Bud Somerville dies at 86

Keeping close watch on rock he has just delivered during play on CBC-TV Curling championships at Nor

CANADA - DECEMBER 08: Keeping close watch on rock he has just delivered during play on CBC-TV Curling championships at North York Centennial Centre last night in Bud Somerville of SUperior; Wis.; skip of United States rink. He wound up a 7-5 victim of Swedish opposition in their match. It was first victory for European rink in series. (Photo by Frank Lennon/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

Toronto Star via Getty Images

Raymond “Bud” Somerville, who skipped the first U.S. curling team to win a world title and the first U.S. team to compete at an Olympics in the modern era, died at age 86 on Saturday, according to USA Curling.

Somerville, who was born in Superior, Wisconsin, can be considered the father of modern American curling.

In 1965, he led the first U.S. team to win a world title in the sport at the Scotch Cup. Canadian teams won all of the previous championships dating to the first in 1959.

“What’s curling?” was the first question Somerville heard when he walked into a New York press conference after flying back from Scotland, according to Sports Illustrated.

Then in 1974, Somerville skipped the U.S. to the nation’s second world title.

In 1984, he became the first person inducted into the U.S. Curling Hall of Fame (while also serving as a clerk in Douglas County along the Wisconsin-Minnesota border).

Somerville was also the U.S. men’s skip when curling returned to the Olympics as a demonstration sport in 1988 for the first time in 56 years. The Americans finished fourth.

At the 1992 Albertville Games, Somerville was joined on the U.S. men’s team by son Tim, brother-in-law Bill Strum and Strum’s son, Mike. The U.S. finished third in curling’s final Olympics as a demonstration sport.

Curling became a full-fledged medal sport starting at the 1998 Nagano Games. Somerville coached the U.S. men at the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics.

John Shuster, who in 2018 skipped the first U.S. curling team to win an Olympic title, has described Somerville as a mentor.

“An American curling icon,” was posted on two-time U.S. Olympian Chris Plys’ social media. “They don’t make them much better than Bud. I don’t think I ever heard a person say one thing about the man that wasn’t something you’d be proud of.”