Saturday, September 28, 2013


I found out at a meeting of USPTA professionals yesterday that what I was told would be the pro league format, teams, and match schedule won't be as I published. As such, I'm just going to leave what I did below in hopes that there is some of it that I may be able to salvage. Again, my apologies!

It's just about that time folks, and, as I read somewhere in a recent email (author, probably Mike Stern, please remind me), "Let's get ready to hobble!" That's my battle cry anyway, as we approach the kickoff of the Southwest Florida Pro League.

There’s usually some new wrinkle or another to
Frank Fourgeau
distinguish one Pro League season from another, and this season we have a couple. Topping the list is the switch in leadership from Jim Katterfield, who wants to devote more time to his new position at The Club at the Strand, to Frank Fourgeau, Gulf Harbour’s Head Tennis Professional.

Another wrinkle is the name change. Last year we went with the absurdly long title of "Fort Myers Ritzman Tennis USPTA Pro League." Well, although Ritzman Tennis is still the League’s title sponsor, and all team members are USPTA/USPTR certified or working on it, we thought Southwest Florida Pro League was a better fit. After all, we have players from Punta Gorda, and pros who work in Naples, and...well, you get the gist, right? And, what’s in a name, eh (got a lil Canadian in me-wink)?

By the way, if you happen to be the creative type, and would like to submit a potential logo for the Southwest Florida Pro League, we would be happy to consider it. If your design is chosen, I will donate a free lesson and an entire blog post introducing you to our tennis community. Step up you artists!

The wrinkle distinguishing this year from last that you would probably care most about is that the first Pro League engagement at Palmira 
on October 18th won’t be a standard dual match. The first pro League event will be a round robin where all teams will play each other in an abbreviated format, with cash on the line for that one event. All Court 1 players will play the other Court 1 players; all Court 2 Players will play the other Court 2 players, etc. It should be a lot of fun and a good preview as to what is likely to happen this coming season.

I’m sure many of you will be saddened to learn that 
Tyler Owens
Tyler Owens, formerly of Fiddlesticks, and the most consistent player on Court 1 the past two years, has had the unmitigated gall to move to the northeast permanently! If he wasn’t such a sweetheart of a guy, I’d have some harsh words for him, but I suppose we should just wish him well, rather than lament his loss…Good luck T.O.

What about the people that are here? New on the Pro League courts this season will be Pat Glaunert, Angie Guillette, and Jeff Solomon. 
Jeff Solomon
I’ve played against Angie, so I know she will be a tough out at mixed. I saw Jeff play in the Landings Grand Prix last year, and he will be a stiff competitor on Court 2, especially since he will be teaming with my former partner, Joel “Boom Boom 1” Hampton. 

Mark Drons
I haven’t seen Pat play, but I suspect that he and Oliver Stenger together will be the other teams’ nightmare on Court 4.  I’m just happy that they will be on Mike Curran’s ProGraphx team, which, incidentally, happens to be the the team I’ll be playing for as well. Of course, they will have to contend with Paul D’Amico and Mark Drons, who should be a tough team on Court 4 for Sergio Rebolledo’s Johnny Malloy’s squad. 
Mike Curran

Looking at the team rosters, it seems apparent that this season will be as competitive and exciting as any in the past few years. Let’s examine the potential matchups…

ProGraphx captain, Mike Curran, is teaming with Manny Encalada, and they should make a formidable duo, as I don’t think Manny has missed a single shot in three years, and we know that da “Big Dawg” can bang with anyone in Pro League. 
Denny Rager
Yet, if Scotty Harrington has played any tennis at all this summer (which he probably hasn’t), he should be able to bring some heat of his own. Scott is partnered with the cagey Denny Rager, one of the best tennis minds in our league, with skills to match, so they give Boston Retirement a force to be reckoned with on Court 1.

Just when you think it can’t get any better, you look over to Johnny Malloy’s Court 1 lineup and you see Sergio Rebolledo and Ryan Sherry. Huh! Is that even
Jared Kalpin
fair? Aren’t they both, like, under 30 or sump’n? Can you just see the fuzz flying when these two take on any of the others? I suspect Harborside Dental will need every bit of the magic in Jared Kalpin’s hands and feet, and all of Shawn Hedrick’s chutzpah to
 notch points on any given Friday. I wouldn’t put it past those two though.

On to the Court 2 action, I’ve already mentioned the Joel Hampton/Jeff Solomon team, which will be sure to ring up some points for Johnny Malloy’s. With Jeff's
Joel Hampton's textbook kick serve form
Corey Knapp & Frank Fourgeau
all around athleticism and Joel’s kick serve to think about, I’m just practicing returns from outside the alley. Boston Retirement captain Frank Fourgeau went with the adage of, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” and he went with Corey Knapp as his partner again. Those two were within a few points here and there of going undefeated on Court 2 last season, so I suspect they’ll be troublesome again this season.

Luke Andreae
Harborside Dental’s Court 2 squad can certainly bring the noise! Uh, my apologies; that means, "Hit it hard!" Yep, 
Harborside captain, Luke Andreae, and Elliot DeBolt are playing on Court 2. I would be all good with that…if I wasn’t playing on Court 2 as well! Both of these guys hit the ball hard enough to be on Court 1, and I’m sure you are familiar with the saying, “Speed kills.”

Patrick Kangwa
Did I mention that I am playing Court 2 with Patrick Kangwa? No? Did I mention that I think I, by myself, am older than the Boston Retirement No.2 team? I think Patrick might be right there with me, so we are giving up decades to the other three teams. 

Ok, now that I’ve had my whine with no cheese, I suspect Patrick and I will figure a way to put some points on the board for ProgGraphx. We did it a couple of years ago (Has it been three years already Patrick? Time just seems to be zipping right past my AARP card!), and I believe we’ll do it again this season. At the very least, we vow to be entertaining.

As I examine the Court 3 lineups, I realize that it is really going to be tough to distinguish Courts 2, 3, and 4 this season folks. Pretty much all of the teams on Court 3 would prove difficult to handle for the Court 2 teams, and the same might be said for Court 4.
Matt Maloney
I’m sure there may be some disagreement, but I have to think that Todd Wise and Matt Maloney are the team to beat on Court 3…Oh, and they are playing for my team too. Niiiiice; loving every bit of that! Matt brings a Court 1 forehand and serve to the table, and Todd…well…he just does everything well, and is pretty (pardon me) wise on the court. After a couple of sessions our captain might choose to move those guys up to Court 2.

As suggested earlier, there’s really no drop off in talent, because Jeff Diggs, 
Jeff Diggs (facing camera) & John Jerome
who had a successful Court 2 run last year, is teamed with Rick Calton for Johnny Malloy’s on Court 3. And when we turn to Harborside Dental, we note that Anthony Hatori, my partner last season on Court 2, will be playing with John Jerome, who partnered with Jeff last year for a successful Court 2 showing.

And if you think that would be it for the talent on Court 3, you would be wrong, dead wrong, because
Larry Gagnon
suiting up for Boston Retirement on Court 3 would be Larry “The Legend” Gagnon and Mike “the Incredible” Barnes. I won’t mention Mike’s age, because you won’t believe me anyway after watching him play, and if Larry hadn’t failed chemistry in high school, he probably would be a successful surgeon somewhere with those hands. Ok, I don’t really know if Larry failed chemistry, but you get my drift: These guys can play tennis!

So where does that leave us? Oh yes, Court 4.
Alex Hermeto
I’ve already jumped out on a limb, a very sturdy limb I believe, in touting the chances of my ProGraphx teammates on Court 4: Oliver Stenger and Pat Glaunert. Their competition will be as stiff as the competition on the other courts, as Johnny Malloy will field Paul D’Amico and Mark Drons as a squad, Boston Retirement brings Alex Hermeto and Dave Dooley to the table, and Harborside lines up Jorge Magalhaes and Dan Moenning.

Dronsy brings as much heat on serve as anyone in
Dan Moenning (right) during USPTA
Testing with Ben Rakusin as tester
Pro League and Paul flat out knows the game. Alex and “Double D” bring a combination of athleticism and know how that you won’t often see on a Court 4, and there is no “prettier” striker of the ball in Pro League, heck, maybe anywhere, than “Gorgeous” Jorge. I suspect Danny “Da Dentist’s” pearly whites will be flashing quite often as he brings his scrappy game to the fore with Jorge.

Ah, and now to the position that I keep asking to play to no avail: Mixed Doubles! 
Christie Bradley
Listen, I don’t think there has been a single Pro League event played in the past two years without there being at least one 11-9 deciding set tiebreak. Oh, but wait, I think Christie Bradley is out this season :(. I don’t think that will change the drama though.

The Mixed might just be the toughest, most evenly matched position in Pro League this coming season. If this were a tournament, it would be tough to seed this thing. 
Kerry Kendrick
Kerry “Boom Boom 2” Kendrick (you were wondering about that “1” after Joel’s Boom Boom weren’t ya?) will be playing with “Steady” Steve Shortridge for Boston Retirement. But then, ProGraphx counters with Angie “Ga-boom!” Guillette and Terry “The Sensible” See. Flip the coin on that one and good luck!

Harborside Dental brings Kim “Didn’t she play Wimbledon?” Jones to the table with Jeff “The Timminator” Timmer at her side. 
Jeff Timmer
I promise you Jeff will hit one of the candidates for “Shot of the Season” in at least one match. World class shot-making…and racquet throwing…could show up at any time with the Timminator on court. And Johnny Malloy’s brings tried and true, Erica Cossairt and Armor Persons. They were involved in a few of those deciding set tiebreaks last season, and will probably be involved is some again this season.

The first thought I have as I finish this preview is: “How in the world is this "FREE" entertainment?” 
Crowd at Colonial
My second thought is: “I should pay the people who stayed for a couple of my matches last season.” Seriously though, the way the teams stack up this season, every other Friday night (give or take a Friday) in Fort Myers, from mid-October through late March, will offer the best early evening entertainment that a tennis lover could have!
Joe Rubin- Director of Tennis at Lexington &
Lexington leadership- Janeice Beckett & Al Kinkl
Before we hit a single ball though, we should all thank the host facilities and their tremendous staffs. Most of the venues do a spectacular job of providing parking, offering refreshments, and doing all that needs to be done to create a memorable event.
And can there ever be a worthwhile event without sponsors? Perhaps, but I don’t want to find out. We’d rather offer up thanks to Tony Ritzman of Ritzman Tennis, who has been the League’s Title Sponsor the past few years. 

We would also like to thank Paul Piniones of Boston Retirement Advisors, Johnny Malloy’s, and Dan Moenning of Harborside Dental, who have sponsored teams multiple years, as well as newcomer Mike Stevens of ProGraphx, sponsoring a team for the first time. They all play a major role in making Pro League what it is. 
Butch & Laura Shorack
We also have a number of banner sponsors that make valuable contributions as well.They include: Jan David of Tennis R Us, Butch and Laura Shorack of McGregor Dental; Joe Pavich Jr. Realty; and Fred Price of Priceless Realty. If you’ve seen Dan, Butch or Laura smile, you know that they know what they are doing with people’s mouths!

If you have been to Tennis R Us, I’m guessing you are pretty much as blown away by that one-of-a-kind establishment as I am. 
Tennis R US
Joe, Fred, since I don’t have any personal experience with you, I’m just going to have to guess that you do what you do well. Thanks for your contribution to the best game in town though.

And of course, YOU! There would be no Southwest Florida Pro League without you! Seriously. To you we are greatly indebted. To Werner and Ursula Seiler who emailed me from Switzerland asking about the Pro League schedule: Thank you! To Kim Mai, I believe I’m your personal Pro League consultant, as many questions as you ask :)…and I don’t mind one bit: Thank you! 

The DeSousas
To the contingent from Grandezza that loyally follows pros that haven’t been at their club for years, the DeSousas, Wolf Kraft, the Christs, to name a few: Thank You!  

Jose Kuo in background with usual smile
To José and the others in the contingent from Punta Gorda who faithfully follow Luke and Dan: Thank you! To the Gulf Harbour faithful, like the Dances, the Ostroms, Coles and Carlsons; the Park Meadow faithful, and all who make the Pro League what it is: Thank You! 
Steph- Esteemed editor and
I hope you notice I didn't thank my mom, but since I'm thanking everyone else on earth, I have to express the utmost gratitude to my dedicated editor and photographer, Steph! If you haven't noticed a ton of typos lately, it's because Steph, despite having English as a second language, takes the time to point out my boo boos. Thanks Love! 

Pro Leaguers at The Landings
during  Toys for Tots benefit
In closing, I’m sure I speak for all of the Southwest Florida Pro League participants, including the subs who keep things going when team members can’t go, when I say, we look forward to another tremendous season in the best tennis environment we could hope for! 

Shoes & Racquet by Tennis R Us
Photo by Steph
Please stay posted as I will be cranking out Pro league updates with match coverage and League Standings throughout the season. It should be fun! See you around the courts, and have a great season on court yourself. Game, set, match…T. A.

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