Wednesday, January 30, 2013

More February Tennis in the Greater Fort Myers Area

As is usually the case, the list of tennis activities has grown since my last post about what's happening in tennis locally. If you have relatives and friends who enjoy tennis but live somewhere else, I would suggest you spread the word about the fantastic, tennis-packed environment we have here in Southwest Florida. Just about every  weekend, there is some tennis-related event or activity in which tennis lovers of all levels can participate or watch.

Edison Classic
This weekend, February 2 – 3, you and your children or grandkids can play and watch as well. The former you can do at Fort Myers Racquet Club whether you are a 2.5 or Open player. That’s right, the 40th edition of the Edison will get underway this weekend with singles and mixed doubles play. 
You can register for the event by dropping by the Racquet Club (1700 Matthew Drive) or by calling Mark and Carly at 239-931-0015. And don’t forget, there is prize money in the Open Divisions.

Junior Events at Gateway & Three Oaks
If the kids and/or grandkids are itching to get competitive on the court, there are two opportunities for them this weekend. Gateway Golf and Country Club is hosting a rookie tournament for those who aren’t seasoned tournament players, and the Lee County Community Tennis Association (LCCTA) is holding a USTA Florida tournament at the Barbara Manzo Tennis Center at Three Oaks Park. Both events are for boys and girls, ages 12 and under through 16 and under. 

The deadline for the Gateway event is Thursday, so call Alex Hermeto (239-561-1422) today or tomorrow for info and entry. Today is the last day to register for the LCCTA event and you can do so online by clicking here or going to USTA Florida’s tennis link and using 150050113 as the tournament ID. .

FGCU Tennis Hosts Troy & SMU
As for tennis-watching the first weekend in February, there will be some tremendous tennis action for you as well. Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU) Men’s Tennis will be showcasing its talent both Friday and Saturday. 
On Friday the 1st, the men in blue and green will host Troy University of the Sun Belt Conference at 1pm, and on Saturday at 6pm, the big show continues when the Mustangs of Southern Methodist University come to town.

If you can’t make both, Coach C.J. Weber is hoping for a big turn out Saturday evening. I’m told extra bleachers are being brought in and refreshments will be on hand for purchase. Both Troy and SMU have faced top-50 schools over the past couple of weeks and should provide serious competition for our Eagles this weekend. Hope to see you there! In case you haven’t been there, FGCU’s campus is just south of Florida Gulf Coast Town Center on the east side of Ben Hill Griffin Parkway. Get directions here.

Grandezza Gives Back
Freda Levin & Deb Grazianni at 2012
Grandezza Gives Back
(photos courtesy of
Rich DeSousa)
And as you might expect, the following weekend, specifically Sunday February 10, there’s much more tennis to be had. As detailed in the last blog post, the Third Annual Grandezza Gives Back event is an opportunity for you to play AND watch. 
Tennis Director Lanny Kalpin and his members host a benefit doubles tournament for men and women rated 2.5 through 4.5, and a doubles exhibition of local pros will also be held after play is completed.

Fiddlesticks Annual Bobby Nichols Tennis Event 
Jeff Diggs & event participants
photos courtesy of Kathy of Fiddlesticks)
If you haven’t already overdosed on tennis by mid-February, there’s more! This time Fiddlesticks Country Club and Tennis Director Jeff Diggs and his staff are carrying the baton, and once again the event is about more than just a great time…which Jeff guarantees you will have. 
On Friday and Saturday, February 15 & 16, the Bobby Nichols-Fiddlesticks Charity Foundation, which has raised a total of $4,687,100 for worthy causes, will host its 5th Annual Tennis Tournament and Kids for Kids Walk-a-Thon.

The activities begin on Friday, with a fun, round robin junior tournament from 4 – 7pm. In addition to round robin play, for the $20 entry, the kids receive snacks, prizes, goodie bags, and awards. 
On Saturday, the Walk-a-Thon begins at 1pm, with games and prizes beginning at 1:30pm. Think the kids will enjoy the bounce house, the climbing wall, face-and-nail-painting, balloon tossing, tennis, pizza, hotdogs, and more? I think so.

Jesse Witten
(photo courtesy of
Whether or not you can make it to the Walk-a-Thon on Saturday, kids and adults can enjoy a high-level exhibition from 4 – 6pm, featuring touring pro Jesse Witten (played at Wimbledon and French Open in 2010), 
Tyler Owens
Jicham Zaatini (former Davis Cup player for Venezuela), former FGCU standout, Jose Pastrella, and local Pro League favorite, Tyler Owens. 

Every great event has its culminating celebration, and there will be a celebration dinner at the Fiddlesticks Clubhouse at 6:30pm.  Food, drinks, music and an overall good time awaits. Grab a few friends and enjoy the Fiddlesticks hospitality while doing civic good. 

The bottom line is that this event is a major good time for all involved, and even more important, it is for a tremendous cause. Last year, the event raised $60,000 for the Children’s Advocacy Center, Abuse Counseling & Treatment, and Blessings in a Backpack, and the Foundation, which continues to be a force for good in our community, hopes to better that this year.

FineMark Bank
Major sponsors for the tennis portion of the Fiddlesticks event include FineMark National Bank & Trust, Howard & Suzanne Moss, and the Sunday Funday Group. For a complete list of event sponsors and more info about the Bobby Nichols Foundation, please click here. To participate or find out more, please call Kathy at 239-768-6439.

FineMark Classic at Bonita Bay 
Speaking of FineMark, the tennis climax of February is certain to be the FineMark Tour Players Classic to be held at Bonita Bay Club on Saturday and Sunday, February 22nd and 23rd. I have already detailed the good time to be had at this event in a previous post, and the event has a comprehensive website with all the information you could ever want about the happenings at Bonita Bay that weekend.

The short month of February is long on tennis for those of us who love the game, and I am already getting intel that suggests March is going to be pretty hot as well! The buzz is that something big is happening at Cascades in Estero in Early March, but I’ll get to that in my March preview next month. Enjoy the tennis! Game, set, match…T. A.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Tom Putt Does It Right at Hideaway

The Hideaway may not have an “Employee of the Month” award, but if it did, I would be nominating Tom Putt for the award right now. Why? Well, I’ve been around a while (over half-century counts as “a while” doesn’t it?), and moments like yesterday have become rare indeed. I believe they used to be more common, but these days? Not so much.

It was shortly after my last lesson of the day on Friday, November 7. I had finished grooming the courts and heading into the cart barn to empty the coolers and return the golf cart to the barn. As soon as I entered the barn, the aroma of burning wood, the sort of aroma you might find lurking beneath a delectable piece of meat cooked on a wood stove, greeted me.

Well, I meandered out back, between patio dining and the administrative office, to dispose of the ice in the cooler, and I encountered the source of that tantalizing aroma: it was Tom Putt, standing in the mid afternoon heat, fanning the flames of a wood fire he bad built and nurtured.

I asked him what he was doing, and he patiently explained to me that this was the way to prepare the wood for cooking so that it produced the best taste for our diners. He explained, “I could use lighter fuel to stoke the flames, but then that taste would be in the food. We wouldn’t want that!” And there he was, fanning the entire time, making my arm tired, with a smile on his face as he fanned and explained.

That alone was plenty good enough for me to nominate Tom for “Employee of the Month,” but that wasn’t all. As I stood there listening to Tom explain his labor of love, Paula, our accountant, walked out of the admin office, and gently informed Tom that the smoke from his efforts was infiltrating her office. Often in situations like that, “the accused” makes excuses, becomes defensive, and nobody is happy.

This was not the case with Tom. He cheerfully offered to move the operation so that Paula would be spared further discomfort. She advised him that that wasn’t necessary, but wanted to let him know how she was impacted. Tom, again, graciously responded that in the future, he would prepare the wood for cooking elsewhere.

And there you have it: Painstakingly building a wood fire in the mid-afternoon heat with a smile on his face, patiently explaining the process to me, and gallantly offering to move his operation to make Paula more comfortable. I guess to some, that may be no big deal, but to me, in this day and age, Tom’s attitude and approach to his work and to others in his work environment warrants commendation. Thanks Tom! Game, set, Match...T. A.

January & February Tennis in Greater Fort Myers

Things continue to hop around the courts (sort of like rock around the clock) in the Greater Fort Myers area. Buckle up and hold on, cause herrrrre weee gooooo!

Fort Myers Pro League 
Todd Wise & Kevin Kearns
First up on the tennis agenda is the Fort Myers Ritzman Tennis USPTA Pro League. The last stop at Heritage Palms featured terrific tennis and tremendous crowds as has been the case for a while now. 

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The next stop will be at Bonita Bay Club in Bonita Springs, on Friday, January 25, at 4:00pm. Yes, all matches are scheduled to be played at 4pm. 

John Ramsey & Christyn Lucas
At Bonita Bay, League-leading Remax, which has left the competition so far behind that everyone else is playing for second, will face third-place Johnny Malloy's.  Boston Retirement Advisers, which sits in second will take on last-place University Grill, and Babolat, which sits in fourth, will play fifth-place Gateway Dental.  

Spectators at 2012 Edison Classic
40 years! Not many events run for 40 years, but the Edison Classic will be celebrating its “Big Four-Oh” next month. I imagine the Edison Classic at Fort Myers Racquet Club has to hold the record for event-longevity in the area…certainly has to be in the running.

Lisa Yeslow & Doug Scratchley
2012 6.0 Mixed Finalists
In any event (pun totally intended), Singles and Mixed Doubles will be held February 1 - 3, and Men’s and Ladies Doubles will be played the following weekend, February 8 – 10. Players’ parties will be held on Saturday the 2nd and Saturday the 9th.

Mark Davis & Carly Carpenter
make it happen
This will be the first Edison Classic under the new Management of MAD Academy, and Mark and Carly are doing all they can to make this a memorable event for all participants. Remember, the courts have recently experienced a makeover, and so has the club interior. Probably worth playing just for those features!

You can register for the event by dropping by the Racquet Club (1700 Matthew Drive) or by calling Mark and Carly at 239-931-0015. Almost forgot, if there are any big hitters in town, there is prize money in the Open Divisions. Speaking of prize money, sponsorship opportunities are still available.

FGCU Men’s Tennis Extravaganza
FGCU fans enjoy the action
In addition to playing opportunities the weekend of the 1st, there will also be a spectacular viewing opportunity that weekend. Pardon the headline, but I didn’t know what else to call the meet that was formerly scheduled for Saturday, January 26.

FGCU Super Fan Tony Yates
A lot of work has gone into making Florida Gulf Coast University’s (FGCU) Men’s Tennis Eagles hosting of the Southern Methodist University (SMU) Mustangs on Saturday, February 2, at 6:00pm something special. I don’t want to use the “H” word that the car guy in Cape Coral uses, but with your support and the support of others in the tennis community, this event is going to be… uh…large? Big? Aw heck, HUGE!

More fans
Hospitality tents, supplemental bleachers brought in, refreshments, reserved and general admission seating, half-time contest, and attendance prize for the club or facility that has the most representatives in the crowd! I already used the other “H” word, so how about if I say it is going to be HUMONGOUS! That’s pretty bad too, isn’t it?

Gabe Echeverry receives congrats
from Athletic Director, Ken Kavenaugh
In all seriousness folks, we have a fledgling Division I tennis program in our backyard, a program that is beginning to taste success, and we have the ability to help generate the current on which the Eagles can soar to the heights they are capable of reaching. Your attendance on the 2nd would go a long way toward that end.  

Coach Weber figuring it out
As for the match itself, you would think that Coach C.J. Weber might do what some of the top football and basketball programs do: choose cupcake opponents for an early-season date. Well, that’s just not how Coach Weber rolls; he schedules SMU, a team that has played two top-30 schools this past week, downing a top-20 doubles team and a top-50 doubles team!

Eagles perch on fence in support
What does that mean for tennis fans? It means that there will be some fantastic tennis happening that night, because the Eagles will be rested up and ready to go after a tough road trip to Tallahassee, which saw them playing Florida State University (FSU), University of Alabama Birmingham (UAB), and Florida A&M University (FAMU), on consecutive days this weekend. I can’t even write that without being exhausted!

Gabe Echeverry
Just prior to the trip north, the Eagles hosted their Spring Invitational, where they claimed two titles (view recap here). While not as successful as their capture of both Singles and Doubles honors at their Fall Invitational in September 2012, the emergence of Gabe Echeverry (redshirt junior) 
Lance Lvovsky
as a singles force, and the continued doubles excellence of Lance Lvovsky (junior), who teamed with Dean Tsamas (junior) for the doubles win, bode well for an Eagles return to the Atlantic Sun Conference Championships this spring.

Dean Tsamas
You can be sure that I will be there on the 2nd and at as many of the other matches as I can make. It sure would be good to see the stands filled with enough fans to create a Davis-Cup-like atmosphere. Hope to see you there!

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As is the case in any legitimate tennis town, there is something for the junior as well. Alex Hermeto and Gateway Country Club will host a non-sanctioned, low pressure, rookie tournament for Boys and Girls, 12-through-16 and under. 

For those not familiar with the “rookie” designation, it means that the event is for players who are not seasoned tournament players, players who are still deciding whether they want to become tournament players, and players who are developing the competitive skills.

Players need to register by Thursday, January 31, and can do so by calling 230-561-1422 or by clicking here.  

Stan in foreground at
Grandezza Gives Back 2012
As I’m sure you can imagine the excitement continues the following weekend when The Club at Grandezza hosts their third annual “Grandezza Gives Back” tennis fundraiser on Sunday, Feb 10 with the proceeds benefiting the FGCU Men’s Tennis Team. 
Coach Weber welcomes fans at
In previous posts I have talked about Coach Weber’s attempts to have FGCU Men’s Tennis be an integral part of our tennis community, and the tennis fans at Grandezza have embraced FGCU’s tennis program and are fully on board the train that is picking up steam.

2012 pros Scott Harrington, Shawn Hedrick,
Jared Kalpin & Sergio Rebolledo
The event, sponsored by Monin, will consist of a doubles tournament with both men’s and women’s draws, from 2.5 – 4.5 ratings, followed by a pro exhibition at 2:00pm. Local favorites, including Scott Harrington, Eddie Nesse, Jim Katterfield and yours truly will be participating in the exhibition.

Entries for the tournament must be received by Wednesday, February 6, and even if you aren’t able to participate, your donations would certainly be welcome. The cost to participate is a mere $20, and you’ll have at least $1000 worth of fun and exercise. Please click here for complete details and entry form. If you have questions please call event organizer Rich DeSousa at 239-390-2017.

FineMark Classic at Bonita Bay Club
Just as you catch your breath from all that’s going on in our tennis world, Bonita Bay Club in Bonita Springs, along with a host of sponsors, will host and present the FineMark Tour Players Tennis Classic on February 22 & 23. The event is an important one, is such a benefit to those in need in the community, that I could spend a considerable amount of time and energy telling you about it.

But the event does a far better job than I ever could with its extensive website. Everything you could ever want to know about the FineMark Tour Players Tennis Classic is available by clicking here, or by cutting and pasting the following link into your web browser:

The bottom line, folks, is that this is a charity event which also allows you and me, the average fan, to play, dine, and hang out with players who have, at one time or another, been among the best tennis players on the planet!  Over the two days, participants will have the opportunity to watch some of the greats play a team match, will get the chance to have breakfast, lunch and dinner with the champs, and play with one of the legends in a Pro Am.

All proceeds from the FineMark are donated to Barbara's Friends Cancer Fund- The Golisano Children's Hospital of Southwest Florida, and will be doubled by the matching grant of Tom Golisano. Please visit the above website for additional information and to register for the event. You can also call 239-343-6950 for additional information.

As always, I'm sure there's much more happening, but that's all I have for now. Game, set, match...T. A.

USPTA Pro League from Heritage Palms to Bonita Bay

Blogger's Note: You can review League Standings, Team Rosters and League Schedule by clicking here

Heritage Palms, the Lawvers and their staff did a tremendous job of hosting the most recent Fort Myers Ritzman Tennis USPTA Pro League stop. Once again several hundred spectators converged on the premises to enjoy the friendly competition among local professionals.

Remax vs. Gateway Dental (GD)
Alex Hermeto, Kerry Kendrick,
Christie Pollin & Dan Moenning
As expected, the Frank Fourgeau-led juggernaut that is Remax chugged on when it met Gateway Dental, my team, led by Shawn Hedrick. Remax swept all four matches, losing just two sets in the process. It was one of the most dominating performances of this season’s Pro League. Remax posted 7 points on the day, tying Babolat for the highest single-match point total this season.

Manuel Encalada & Luke Andreae
On Court 1, in a tightly contested affair, Manuel Encalada and Luke Andreae toppled Shawn and Ryan Sherry 7-6, 7-5. On Court 2, Frank and Corey Knapp came back from a 4-6 first set to win 6-1, 10-8 against Anthony Hatori and me.

Dan Moenning & Christie Pollin
Jorge Magalhaes and Dave Dooley of Remax took out Steve Shortridge and Ted Farah, 6-3, 6-2, on Court 3, and on the Mixed Court, after dropping their first set 5-7 to Alex Hermeto and Kerry Kendrick of GD, Dan Moenning and Christie Pollin came back to win 6-2, 10-5.

Boston Retirement Advisors (BRA) vs. Babolat
Scott Harrington & Jared Kalpin
Scott Harrington’s BRA took three of four courts and posted its highest single match total of the season, 6 points to 3 for Jeff Diggs’ Babolat. That total allowed BRA to hold onto second place by one point over Johnny Malloy’s (JM).

Tyler Owens & Denny Rager
On Court 1, Denny Rager and Tyler Owens continued their winning ways for Babolat, taking two straight sets from Scott and Jared Kalpin, 6-4, 6-3. On Court 2, 
League Commissioner Jim Katterfield teamed up with Joel Hampton to take a heartbreaker from Jeff Diggs and Tom Fisher (sub), 2-6, 7-5, 11-9, scoring 2 points for BRA. The Commish and Joel saved match point en route to that emotional victory.

Mike Barnes & Paul D'Amico
Earning another two points for BRA were Paul D’Amico and Mike Barnes on Court 3. Forming one of the strongest Court 3-teams in the League, D’Amico and Barnes took out Toni Halski and John Gillette 6-0, 6-4. 
Kim Jones & Bob Green
Bob Green and Kim Jones gave BRA another win on the Mixed Court, but it was no easy task. Erica Cossairt and Fernando Carballo (sub) took Green and Jones to a match-tiebreak before succumbing.

Elliot DeBolt & Jeremy Orme
Johnny Malloy’s (JM) vs. University Grill (UG)
Despite the absence of JM Captain Mike Curran, the team still posted 6 points to keep pace with BRA, just one point out of second. Curran’s usual partner on Court 1, Elliot DeBolt teamed with Jeremy Orme (sub) to down Sergio Rebolledo and Matt Maloney 6-3, 7-6.

Mike Lawver & Patrick Kangwa
On Court 2, in the match of the day, resurgent UG captain Mike Lawver and Patrick Kangwa battled late into the night against Todd Wise and Kevin Kearns. 
Todd Wise & Kevin Kearns

It looked good for Lawver and Kangwa after they took the first set 6-3, but Wise and Kearns battled back to take the second set in a tiebreak. Lawver and Kangwa outlasted the JM warriors, taking the match tiebreak 10-6.

Larry Gagnon & Oliver Stenger
The other dominant third-court duo, Larry Gagnon and Oliver Stenger for JM, did what they usually do: cruise to victory. They faced Mark Drons and Terry See, and took the match 6-3, 6-4. 
John Ramsey & Christyn Lucas
On the Mixed Court, John Ramsey and Christyn Lucas continued their winning ways, dispatching Tony Martin and Carolyn Lawver 6-2, 6-3 to close out the scoring for JM.

Friday's Match-ups
This coming Friday, at Bonita Bay Club, all matches will be played at 4:00pm. Remax will seek to maintain its dominance when it faces third-place JM. Chances are good that they will do so given that the first time the two played, Remax earned 2 points more than JM…and JM had a healthy Mike Curran that day! It was closer than the point total indicates though, because each team won two courts that day and three of the four matches ended in match tiebreaks. JM would have to sweep all four courts to catch the top team.

The BRA squad appear poised to cement their position in second as they take on UG, the League’s last-place team. BRA outpointed UG by 2 points last time around, winning three of the four courts. Lineups are a bit different this time around for both teams, so the result may be different.

The Babolat-GD matchup offers a chance for GD to make up some ground on the leaders, given that GD posted its best point total of the season against Babolat in Week 2. However, the odds aren’t very good for GD as Manuel Encalada, who didn’t play in the first meeting, will be playing this time on Court 1. And on Court 2, Jeff Diggs and John Jerome have been playing better than the first time around, but the same can’t be said for Anthony Hatori and me. The lineups are also a bit different, so time will tell.

As always, the action should be as hot and heavy as it has been throughout, and you know the players look forward to your presence at the best Friday evening entertainment in town…well, the best early Friday evening entertainment anyway. See you on Friday. Game, set, match…T. A.