Monday, October 3, 2016


Tough to know where to start in recapping the Lee County Florida 2015 – 16 tennis season. There is only so much time and so much energy to sum up the millions of balls struck, the multitude of events held, the mountain of money raised for good causes, and of course the poignant losses and gains we’ve experienced.

When I mention “losses” I am not referring to points and matches, but rather to tennis community icons. I suspect we feel those losses more intensely and for quite a bit longer than the loss of any tennis match. And it is with a few of those losses that I’ll begin the recap.

Poignant Losses
Steve Shortridge (Colonial Country Club)
It wouldn’t surprise if the name Steve Shortridge (click link to access more about Steve) doesn’t ring a bell to some, but to many members of the Southwest Florida tennis community, indeed, the entire United States Professional Tennis Association (USPTA) community of Florida, Steve Shortridge was a central figure in their tennis lives. Several of my current students have shared stories with me about beginning their tennis lives under Steve’s tutelage. Some talk about the weekly lessons they took with Steve for years before his illness laid him low.

When I was still good enough to play national tournaments, I always sought Steve out to help with my preparation. I don’t believe I ever
played a USPTA tournament where Steve’s name wasn’t in the draw. Watching Steve play, one might wonder how he could be, simultaneously, such a fierce competitor and yet so laid back. He was a sportsman, he was a class act, and no finer example of on-court demeanor could we ever find.
Steve approached his battle with bile duct cancer as he approached his matches on court. He battled gamely, quietly, and with all he had. He was a silent warrior on and off the tennis court, and the magnitude of our loss is starkly contrasted by the gains he delivered over the almost four decades he spent in our tennis community.

Terry See (Cypress Lake Country Club)

Speaking of warriors and losses, Cypress Lake Country Club (CLCC) has lost its peerless leader Terry See. Fortunately for CLCC and for the Southwest Florida tennis community, Terry will still be around the courts at CLCC in some form or fashion, just not at the helm of the CLCC tennis program.

If you only consider the tremendous effort it must have taken to develop the CLCC program from one men’s team and 30-odd members when he took the reins, to the program that boasts teams numbering over 20 during the course of a season, and a membership that has grown approximately six-fold, you would have only a fundamental understanding of the man that is Terry See.

In the almost 10 years that I have known Terry, he has thrice battled 

debilitating injury and illness severe enough to have laid low a man of lesser stature. Each time Terry has emerged victorious, still with his engaging optimism and the ever-present smile beneath the Sam Elliott-esque moustache. For years I have marveled at Terry’s ability to teach a full day’s load of lessons and then head off to the gym to work out. His herculean efforts paid their dividends when physical disaster threatened.

If there were medals such as silver stars and purple hearts for tennis, 

Terry See would have a few in his trophy cabinet. Filling the immense space at Cypress Lake left by Terry’s size 15s won’t be easy, but as I understand it, Terry will be around to help make the transition to and the loss of his leadership easier for the CLCC community and its new leader, Alex Hermeto.

Doug Scratchley (Fort Myers Racquet Club)

Doug Scratchley
Even fewer than the number who would recognize Steve, is the number that will recognize the name Doug Scratchley, but Doug represents another loss to our tennis community. Doug wasn’t a teaching professional, he wasn’t a top player in the area, but he was a topnotch person with whom I had the pleasure of working in my clinics at The Hideaway. Doug was 71-years-old when he left us, but he was still improving his tennis game, and I believe his love for the game was at an all-time high.

Doug was a member of Fort Myers Racquet Club and intended to serve as Co-captain of one of our Hideaway men’s teams this 

Doug & Lisa Harrington Yeslow
coming season. Doug's last memory was probably of the tennis match he was playing when he fell and mortally hurt himself. I'm guessing that he would only have preferred going in the arms of his wife Ann or in the company of the other tennis-loving members of his family, such as daughter Lisa Yeslow perhaps. Ah Doug my friend you will be missed, and will remain present in my teaching, especially when I teach overheads. I’m sure you wouldn’t mind.

Hideaway Tennis

Construction can't stop our guys
That close-to-home loss is related to another, because even if Doug were still with us in person, rather than just in spirit, he wouldn’t be co-captaining a team at the Hideaway for the 2016-17 season. The Hideaway was primed to add four teams to the four we hosted during the 2015-16 season, but construction of our new clubhouse has suspended team play for the season. Those eight league teams (six women’s and two men’s) would have been the most in Hideaway history.

But both history and those of us who miss our Hideaway Tennis
All isn't totally loss. The teaching court survives
Haven will have to wait and weather the whims of construction. Before we can rebuild on the court, we will have to await the completion of the rebuilding offcourt. Fortunately, our teams were able to find homes elsewhere and some of my favorite people will be playing on courts other than the Hideaway’s this coming season. Yes, the growing tennis momentum at The Hideaway was stopped in its tracks, and we can only hope to regain it for the 2017-18 season. Such a loss.

Pulling for Liz Byck (Gulf Harbour)
Before moving on, there is one more loss that I'd like to acknowledge. It was another that hit me like a sucker punch from the schoolyard bully. During my three years at Gulf Harbour Yacht and Country Club I developed some relationships that remain dear to me. One such was with a Canadian couple Liz Byck, a perennial team captain and Peter Malen, a fixture of the men's tennis program.

Only a few Gulf Harbour members still drop in for lessons, so I don't see too many of those folks who are still dear to me very often. I did see Liz at one of the Lee County Women's Tennis League team luncheons in April, and Liz looked terrific. It was a shock for me to find out a couple of months later that she was in the hospital with a brain injury and not doing well. I received an update from Peter a couple of days ago saying that Liz has been making tremendous progress with her therapy. 

Gratefully, Liz isn't lost permanently, but just imagining the loss of her vibrant being on and around the courts feels like a loss. I know how much she treasured her tennis and until she regains it, that will be a tremendous loss for her that I and many of her teammates will share. We are pulling for you Liz and can't wait for you to be back among the bouncing yellow balls. I know that we are not anywhere near ready to concede this match! Hope to see you before season's end.
Tennis Community Generosity
Mike Lawver & Jeff Diggs
We may experience losses, but our Southwest Florida tennis community is nothing if not resilient, resourceful, and, without doubt, regeneratively generous. I don’t remember how long ago it was, but quite some time ago I was chatting with Jeff Diggs, Director of Tennis at Fiddlesticks, about the good things the tennis community does, and he remarked that it would be a good idea to highlight some of the charitable works in a blog post. Well Jeff, I agreed with you then, and I am finally doing a little something about it. 

Fiddlesticks Charity
Since it was your idea Jeff, I may as well start with the tremendous 

Scenes from 2013 Bobby Nichols event
work that you folks do at Fiddlesticks. Just this year alone, Fiddlesticks Country Club’s Bobby Nichols Fiddlesticks Charity Foundation raised $100,000 for good causes. The Annual Presidents Day weekend Nichols Cup Tennis Tournament has played a key role in the more than $500,000 raised for charity over the past 10 years. A special group of Fiddlesticks member volunteers, who call themselves Pipers, help coordinate auction items, coordinate dinner arrangements, and secure donations and participation. According to Jeff, “They are instrumental in making this event a success year in and year out.” 

Scenes from 2013 Bobby Nichols event
In addition to the many individual contributions, the event wouldn’tbe the success it is without the major contributions from local businesses such as Finemark Bank. Recipients of the proceeds include Children’s Advocacy Center, Blessings in a Backpack, Abuse, Counseling & Treatment (ACT) and Liberty Youth Ranch.

Giving at The Landings 

Paul D'Amico- Landings
Director of Tennis
As one of the premier facilities in the community, The Landings Yacht Golf & Tennis Club (LYGTC) has always been an active leader in charitable events. In 2016, Tennis Director Paul D’Amico and the Landings Tennis Association (LTA) hosted events that raised over $150,000 for good causes.

LYGTC opened the year with a Tennis Exhibition fundraiser that contributed $2000 to Florida Gulf Coast University’s Men’s Tennis Program. A short two months later, Paul teamed with Duane Chaney and a host of volunteers to put on the largest Charity event in our area: the eighth edition of the annually expanding Madisen’s Match. 

Photo courtesy of
Madisen's Match combines a hugely successful fundraising dinner and silent auction, with a pro-am and exhibition, a tournament, a clinic, and a golf event. This year's edition led to the most rewarding Madisen’s Match ever, raising over $150,000 for the Lee Memorial Regional Cancer Center and Golisano Children’s Hospital. Key community business contributors include Raymond James, Prographix and Lamar. Several others chipped in to make the event the success that it was. Take a look at Madisen’s Match website for additional details. 

Sanctuary Samaritans

Add caption
Under the leadership of Christie Bradley, Director of Tennis at the Sanctuary Golf Club, last November's edition of the annual Hope Hospice Tennis Challenge continued to generate tremendous support for an entity that provides a service unlike any other. Incorporating a Nick Bollettieri clinic and a tiebreak doubles tournament, the event generated $15,000 to support the Hope Hospice mission.  

Christie Bradley accepting donation from
Bank of the Islands
A number of local businesses contributed the past year's effort. They include Lily Jewelers, a recurring contributor to the effort; Tween Waters Inn, Bank of the Islands, and Ritzmann Tennis. The staff at Sanctuary and volunteers like Dan Schuyler assist Christie in delivering a first-class event that highlights the tennis community's generosity. The 2015-16 Challenge was the 13th time the event raised funds for Hope Hospice, and Christie hopes to revive the event after construction is completed at the Sanctuary. 

Heritage Palms Presents

Baskets from Heritage Palms Play It Forward
Some of our tennis community's charitable efforts are spectacular, while others are modest, but no less worthy of mention or gratitude. Under the direction of Mike and Carolyn Lawver, Heritage Palms Country Club conducts two events that make valuable contributions to the community. Each January the Heritage Palms Tennis Association (HPTA) and their tennis professionals put on Play It Forward, a fundraiser that typically includes tennis round-robins, a raffle of member crafted baskets and a silent auction with items donated by members of the Heritage Palms tennis community.

According to Mike, this past season’s HPTA coordinated event raised approximately $5,000 for the Lee County Tennis Association scholarship program, and each Heritage Palms tennis professional also donated an hour lesson. Although not a fundraising event, the HP tennis community hosts an annual event for the Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Sun Coast. As Mike describes it, the July event “…was hosted by the tennis pros, with help from the Heritage Palms Tennis Association. This is a clinic/pizza party for the kids and adults within the Big Brothers and Big Sisters community in addition to our resident juniors.”

Drilling for Good Deeds

Fred Drilling youth clinic
There are likely to be quite a few more efforts by area clubs and that I am not aware of, and I know that there are also myriad efforts by individuals that escape my consciousness as well. Ah, but I do know that Fred Drilling, one of Southwest Florida’s tennis icons, is a fine example of individual contributions. Fred shares his vast tennis knowledge providing pro bono clinics for kids ages 3 – 15 at his Bella Terra community. 

Offering Kudos
Kudos for generosity will always come first with me, but I think it's good to acknowledge stellar performances as well. You'll pardon me for starting with my teams and students I'm sure. 

Hideaway Sportsmanship
Hideaway 2015-16 Silver Team
The Hideaway's Lee County Women's Tennis League (LCWTL)  Silver team led by Linda Sisco and Donna McVety received the Sportsmanship Award for the Division. Unfortunately, a number of
Silver Captain Linda Sisco & Martha Carlisle
divisions have stopped featuring a sportsmanship award, perhaps because it seemed to be a booby prize for teams who finished last in the division. Although we did do our share of losing, The Hideaway's Silver ladies did not finish at the bottom of the standings, but regardless of where we finish in the standings, we will continue to emphasize good sportsmanship at The Hideaway.

Fort Myers Racquet Club (FMRC) Dominance
Tim McClary’s FMRC team outdistanced the opposition, finishing
Captain Tim McClary's White C Champions
five points ahead of second-place Shadow Wood and seven points ahead of third-place Grandezza. 
Lee County Men’s 50+ League White C Champions Swept all four courts in seven of their 12 matches, including five consecutive sweeps beginning midway through the season, and lost just one team match all season, and that was the last of the season when they had already clinched the title.
Paul Marinell
Paul Marinell was the only player who played more than one match on the team to go undefeated, posting a 9-0 record. Four other players on the team posted one-loss records including Captain McClary (7-1), Frank Mitchell (9-1), Steve Carroll (9-1) and Jim Yaeger (5-1). Does it sound like I’m proud of these guys? Well that’s because I am. I have enjoyed my clinic sessions with a few of the team members for some time now and look forward to continuing our work together.

Marital Bliss at Plantation
John DeMarie captained Plantation’s Lee County Men’s 50+Blue B 
team to a first-place finish eclipsing the competition by 16 points, while sweeping seven of their 15 matches. Wow! Guess that swim coaching you did paid off huh John? Roberta "Ro" DeMarie, John’s wife, almost made it a winning double as she captained Plantation’s Lee County Women’s Tennis League (LCWTL) 50+ Bronze team to a second-place finish, just seven points behind first-place Paseo. Nice work folks!

More Student Excellence
Michele Bennett at 2016 Edison
Michele Bennett not only captained her FMRC 4.0- LCWTL team to victory, but she claimed the women’s doubles title at the 2016 Edison Tournament. Talk about being a winner! Lili Canfield and the other members of my former Monday crew (Debbie, Janet, Janie, Jan & Cindy) claimed the honors in the LCWTL 4.0 Division for Gulf Harbour. Way to play ladies!

I believe (Let me know if I'm wrong) Cindy and Kayla Cheslosky proved to be the most successful mother-daughter tandem in the LCWTL, winning 80% of the matches they played together on Court 1 for Park Meadow in the 4.0 Division. Too bad Kayla had to go get a job huh Cin? I miss her in clinics too.
Kim Mai center stage
Ya know, I think I need an entire blog post just to send out kudos to students, but I'll end here with Kim Mai. Kim deserves some props because she ended up winning 70% of her matches at the LCWTL 4.0 level for Cypress Lake even though, before the season started, she expressed concerned that she couldn’t be successful at that level. I had no doubt Kim.

What a Staff!
My last, but certainly not least, shout out in the kudos department is

to the tennis staff at Gulf Harbour, which had to be the most
Mike Curran with Joe D'Aleo
decorated staff this past season. Not only did Mike Curran, Director of Tennis & Fitness, receive awards and accolades for tennis (USPTA District President of the Year; USTA Outstanding Tournament Director of the Year and more), he was even written up in the News-Press for his golfing prowess!

Paulo Barros, Gulf Harbour's Assistant Director of Tennis, won two USTA silver balls and one bronze ball for his efforts in National USTA events. Paulo was the Singles Finalist in the Indoor National Men's 35 tourney, and finished third in doubles at the same event. He also was the Singles Finalist at the USTA National Men's Grass Court as well. 

USTA Florida Open League representatives
at Nationals (Mike not pictured)
Paulo also teamed with Sergio Rebolledo, Gulf Harbour's Assistant Tennis Professional, to win the USTA Florida Open Division League Sectionals. All three will represent Florida at the 2016 National Open League Championships in Las Vegas, Nevada, September 30 - October 2 at the Darling Tennis Center. There is no doubt that there many more players and other entities deserving of accolades, but that's about all that I can get to at the moment. Those of you who live in the Greater Fort Myers Area know that the Lee County Women's Tennis League (LCWTL) is the largest league in our area outside of USTA Leagues. No recap of 2015-16 could be even semi-complete without reflecting on the action there. Click here for more on the LCWTL's 2015-16 season. 

There is little doubt that our tennis community will again produce many events and occasions worthy of reviewing and acknowledging in 2016 - 17. I look forward to sharing those with you over the coming months. Game, set, match...T. A.

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