This first weekend in August has been greatly anticipated, not only by those 350 tennis players converging upon Owensboro for the Adult 55 and Over USTA League Kentucky Championships, but also by local tennis players and volunteers who are thrilled to have landed such a large tournament here. Owensboro Daviess County Tennis Association (ODCTA) will be the official host of the tournament.
“The public is welcome and they will see some very, very good tennis,” said Anna Greene, who has spearheaded the many behind-the-scene tasks needed to host a state tournament of this magnitude. So, what specific resources are needed to put together an event like this? “Many, many volunteers; a lot of support from the community; a lot of support from the City; a lot of support from the Convention & Visitors Bureau . . . and it’s really hard work. You really need to be very organized,” Anna said, with full agreement from Peggy Belt and Donna Farmer, Owensboro’s Local League Coordinators.
Viewers can expect to see teams from all over the state of Kentucky compete—starting with men’s and women’s 2.5 to 4.5 teams. Those numbers represent a USTA ranking, allowing players to compete against others of the same level (rating). For example, a 2.5 player is a beginner, whereas a 4.5 player likely played high school or college tennis. Teams qualified to play in this tournament by winning their local league or by being runner-up locally. Larger cities have more teams vying for the tournament, allowing them to send more teams. Wild card invitations are also extended to fill out a bracket as needed. An estimated 40 teams will be playing here July 31-Aug. 2, at three sites: KWC, Shifley and Moreland Park tennis courts.
The organizational structure of the tournament involves a format of 4-5 teams in each flight (Flights A,B,C). “They will play every other team in that flight, and whoever wins their flight will play the other teams who come out of their flight for the championship,” Anna said. The semi-finals and finals will be played Sunday morning at Shifley Park’s courts. The entire draw is posted on ustaky.com. The website lists the times, locations and teams competing—several home teams are among those playing.
How did Owensboro land this tournament? “The Owensboro Daviess County Tennis Association applied for the tournament. USTA Kentucky representatives came down, met with us, City officials and Parks & Recreation officials. We put on the best dog ‘n’ pony show we could, and waited eagerly for the announcement. They awarded us this 55 and Over Tournament, which is a great feather in our cap, because Owensboro will be the host for 2015 and 2016,” Anna said.
The addition of 9 new outdoor courts at Shifley Park and Centre Court, Owensboro’s new 6-court indoor facility, played a huge role in USTA Kentucky’s decision to award the 55 and Over tournament to ODCTA, in Anna’s opinion. The indoor courts would be used if inclement weather forced rescheduling matches indoors. (Evansville Tennis Center would also be used if weather cancelled outdoor play.)
The tournament has the potential for an enormous economic impact. “You will have hundreds of people staying in our hotels, eating in our restaurants, going in our shops—plus many of them travel with their family and you’re also talking about people who are 55 and over who generally have more spendable income, being at a point in their lives where things are easier. It’s huge; it’s really huge,” Anna said.
USTA Kentucky will serve as the official tournament director. Several of their staff members will be present to oversee the tournament, including Kathy Klein, who is State League Coordinator for USTA Kentucky.
ODCTA’ s role is to organize all the volunteers at each of the court sites, to prepare small goodie bags (discount coupons and T-shirts) for each of the players, to assist USTA Kentucky in any way possible and to do all the prep work. That prep work means arrangements for ice to be delivered to each site each morning; benches, tables, chairs and tents set up for players and workers; scorekeepers installed on all courts; boxes of bananas and tennis balls available for players; as well as lunch delivered to on-site volunteers daily.
Getting enough volunteers (50-60) was the most challenging task. “They have to be trained. It’s not a job where you can just walk out there, sit down and start taking people’s names. You have to go through the training, and it requires dedication on their part,” Anna said. “The Thursday night before the tournament begins on Friday (July 31), all the site workers are required to attend a training class at Centre Court that will cover them on taking scores, reporting scores, putting teams on courts, keeping track of who’s on court and who’s not, dealing with scoring disputes, calling an official if needed,” she said. USTA Kentucky provides the tennis officials. Local tennis pros are available to string racquets for any who might need that assistance.
A player party is scheduled for Friday night in conjunction with Friday After 5. “It’s a good way to show people from out of state our downtown riverfront,” Peggy said. All players and officials are welcome at the party catered by 54 Pizza Express, which runs from 6:30- 8 p.m. in the balcony area of the RiverPark Center.
“My goal is to make Owensboro proud, promote tennis here, to show off our new tennis facility that we’re all ga-ga over and to make our local CTA (Owensboro Daviess County Tennis Association) proud,” Anna said. She quickly interjected that she would also like NO RAIN. Donna and Peggy again concurred, adding that they hope our local teams win their divisions—maybe even a state championship. After all, it is our racquet.