Adult Leagues Adult Tournaments Junior Tournaments Jr. Team Tennis Learn more

Tennis' Best Recognized at 2011 USTA Florida Annual Awards

December 6, 2011 07:53 PM
More than 250 USTA Florida volunteers, staff and tennis community members gathered to celebrate the movers and shakers in Florida recreational tennis at the United States Tennis Association-Florida Section's 62nd Annual Awards and Volunteer Celebration Weekend, Dec. 3-4, 2011, at the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress in Orlando.

"I always heard the word 'celebrate' over and over, and didn't get it until this weekend and being a part of all these events," said Robert Gomez, representing and accepting the USTA Florida Member Organization of the Year Award for the City of Coral Gables Parks & Recreation Department. "Seeing and hearing the stories of all these great award winners is really fantastic and it is truly a celebration of what is happening in Florida and tennis."

Highlights of the weekend included a Meals of Hope event where more than 100 volunteers packaged approximately 42,000 dried-food meals for homeless in the Orlando area, and activities such as national speakers, the annual awards, the 2012 "Future Forecast" for recreational tennis, tennis play events, a casino night, the "Breakfast with the Stars" and more.

Here are the winners from the 62nd Annual USTA Florida Annual Awards:

City of Coral Gables Parks & Recreation Department
Motto: "It Starts in the Parks"

The tennis centers that are overseen and run by the City of Coral Gables Parks & Recreation Department are fully operational facilities offering more than 20 adult and junior instructional programs to the public. In fact, the centers have more than 80,000 visitors for social play yearly.

org of year-robert gomezThe two tennis centers encompass 23 courts (10 lighted hardcourts and 13 lighted claycourts). In 2010, the city agreed to allow all Miami-Dade County residents to play for the same nominal fee as Coral Gables' residents. In 2009, the city invested more than $600,000 for the renovation of Salvadore Park Tennis Center, while an additional $1.5 million has been approved by the city commission for the renovation of the Kerdyk Biltmore Tennis Center in 2012.

This past year, Salvadore Park hosted a fundraising event for St. Phillips Elementary School, which raised over $7,500 for the school and had the participation of 10 city tennis professionals who donated more than 60 hours of their time to the event. Over the past 50 years, the city has donated its facilities to the 10-day Junior Orange Bowl free of charge, hosting more than 1,000 national and international juniors.

The city's list of accomplishments includes providing need-based juniors scholarships for membership or instructional programs.

Susie Rahimitabar of Orlando
Motto: "Everybody Can Be Great...Because Anybody Can Serve"

Susie Rahimitabar's involvement with tennis covers many areas -- and has touched many lives.

susie rahWhen she established a Jr. Team Tennis Quickstart level, only six children participated. Since those humble beginnings, however, the program has grown extensively, with the 8 & Under and 10 & Under teams winning both the USTA Florida regional and sectional championships in 2011. As a local league coordinator, Susie has been heavily involved in 2.5-level adult initiatives that include coordinating "Tennis Blasts" and numerous other events to attract new players.

With the help of her co-coordinator and son, Jason, she also created the "Free Agents" list to connect players looking for teams and teams looking for players.

"I love what playing tennis -- and living a tennis life -- has done for the quality of my life," she says. "Because I see how tennis has improved my life, I seek to bring this lifestyle to all who I feel would benefit from it, which is basically everyone."

The Dave Brown Family of Port Orange
Motto: "Just Watch the Ball and Have Fun!"

When the Dave Brown brood relocated to South Florida in 1990, it didn't take long for husband Dave, wife Ann, and son Aaron to have a positive impact on the local tennis scene. After landing a job as a teaching pro at C.B. Smith Park, Dave earned USPTA Master Pro status, which soon led to Dave and Ann taking over the operation of two active Broward County tennis facilities.

brown familyDuring this time, the Browns coordinated as many as 20 USTA-sanctioned tournaments annually to keep the courts active and thriving. From 1995 to 1997, Dave volunteered and organized the USTA Play Tennis America program for Broward County that involved 18 facilities and provided over 2,000 free tennis lessons. This experience opened the door to a new opportunity with USTA Florida.

In 1998, Miami-Dade and Broward counties were awarded a substantial Plan for Growth grant. As a result, Dave became South Florida's USA Tennis community coordinator and led the Free Lesson Blitz, introducing tennis to thousands of Floridians over the next four years. In 2003, the Brown family relocated to Port Orange in Central Florida. The location may have changed, but the family's tennis involvement remained as faithful and fervent as ever.

Ann, who had served as assistant tournament director for over 20 annual events at both the Brian Piccolo and C.B. Smith tennis facilities in South Florida, soon joined the USTA Florida staff, working in the Competitive Tennis Division, where she currently serves as the section's coordinator of competitive education. While Ann was making her mark at USTA Florida, Dave served as director and manager of the Florida Tennis Center in Daytona Beach, which is where most of the section's championships are held.

While his parents were making their contributions to the game, son Aaron grew up playing USTA Florida junior tennis events and was consistently ranked among Florida's Top 30 juniors in the various age divisions in which he competed. Like his parents, he is now doing his part to grow the great game of tennis. Aaron, who recently became a USPTA-certified professional and teaches tennis at the Trails Racquet Club in Ormond Beach, is now serving as the Jr. Team Tennis local league coordinator for Flagler County.

Marilyn Bollo of Cocoa Beach
Motto: "Swinging for Kids"

Love of the game. It's a core motive to explain why so many individuals, like Marilyn Bollo, willingly devote copious amounts of their time and talent to USTA Florida.

marilyn bollo2Bollo, who has been involved in various sectional activities since the 1990s, has amassed an impressive volunteer resume that includes serving as a Jr. Team Tennis captain, a women's 3.5 league captain, a league coordinator for Jr. Team Tennis in District 17, a school coordinator for District 17 and Region 4, a fundraiser and coach of AAU Junior Olympics teams, and a USTA Florida Junior Recreation Council member.
In addition to the aforementioned activities, she currently serves as a USTA Florida Volunteer Council member, a Volunteer of the Month coordinator, and a Nominating Committee member.

From 1990 through 2004, with the help of many dedicated volunteers in Brevard County, Marilyn helped raised a significant amount of money through the Swinging for Kids tennis tournaments.
All proceeds were used to buy tennis equipment, which was donated to USTA member schools in Brevard County, PAL (Police Athletic League) groups, after-school care programs, and several private schools.

As a result of this effort, thousands of children who might never have had the opportunity to experience the "sport of a lifetime" were introduced to the game.
According to Marilyn, who was also named 1999 USTA Florida Outstanding School Tennis Volunteer of the Year and 2006 USTA Florida Committee Volunteer of the Year, "As long as I'm still having fun, I'm going to continue as a volunteer."

Donn Davis of Punta Gorda
Motto: "We Are Family"

Eleven years ago, Donn Davis transitioned into the role of USTA Florida volunteer because "my knees were shot" [after years of competition] and he felt it was time to give something back to the game he had loved for many years. It's a decision he's never regretted.

donn davis2After getting his feet wet by volunteering for the Charlotte County Community Tennis Association and working with the USTA Florida Volunteer Council, Donn plunged headfirst into various sectional activities. Over the past decade, he has served in a dizzying array of leadership positions that includes president of the Charlotte County CTA (Community Tennis Association), acting as a USTA Florida District 13 director, and becoming a USTA Florida Board of Directors member.

As a board member he eventually rose to the position of president, where he served with distinction.
He has also chaired the USTA Florida Regional Directors Committee, the Nominating Committee, the Share the Love grant program, and served as president of the USTA Florida Section Foundation.

"When I attended my first USTA Florida Annual Meeting in Daytona Beach and met Doug Booth, it was from that meeting that I was convinced I had to help this organization," said Davis, who also received the 2010 USPTA Florida Division Service Award. "And as Paul Harvey would say, that's 'the rest of the story.'"

Tommy Ho of Houston, Texas
Motto: "Eye of the Tiger"

When a young phenom from Winter Haven burst onto Florida's junior tennis scene in the mid-1980s, he did so with amazing gusto, shattering the record books and soaring to No. 1 in various USTA Florida age divisions.

tommy ho-2During an amazingly prolific junior career, Ho captured 17 USTA national titles, won two Orange Bowls, and became the youngest player at 15 years, 1 month to win the USTA Boys 18's national title. Later that year, he became the youngest-ever male player to compete in the main draw of the US Open at the age of 15 years, 2 months. A month later, he continued his rapid rise on the pro tour by becoming the second-youngest male player to win a main-draw match at a top-level tour event.

After turning pro at the age of 15 in December 1988, Ho enjoyed a successful professional career that included cracking the Top 100 in singles and the Top 15 in doubles, winning four titles. Although chronic back injuries in 1997 forced him to retire from professional tennis, he looks back on his playing days with genuine fondness.

"When I think about the caliber of players that Florida tennis has developed over the last several decades, it reminds me of how blessed I am to have been born with a gift and passion for a sport that has created the foundation of who I am," Ho said. "However, a gift is not enough to develop into a national competitor. It takes individuals who have the knowledge and understanding of what the most optimal environment is to motivate children to dream of being a world-class tennis player. It takes strong leadership and commitment to influence others to drive innovation and progress in a very competitive landscape where kids are constantly exposed to many other sports. USTA Florida provided me with the foresight, infrastructure, and pathway that led to the seamless and rapid progression of my tennis career."

Noel Charette of Bradenton
Motto: "Noel the Terrible"

charette-2Noel Charette likes to use the pen name "Noel the Terrible" as his byline when he writes for various tennis publications. But if the truth be told, he should choose a different moniker based on his altruistic efforts for the game.

Noel, who serves as the Tennis Life Region 5 writer, has received a plethora of positive feedback from local readers, who especially enjoy his articles that are editorial in nature. Two specific pieces that earned his praise were entitled "Ask Not What Your Club..." and "A Perfect Player."

Over the past few years, Noel, who makes it a point to never miss a local charity match, has written articles for Florida Tennis, Totally Tennis, and the Longwood Athletic Club newsletter. In fact, Totally Tennis published a two-part article authored by Noel in 2010 on the NTRP, while his heartfelt article about his son was published in the September 2010 issue of Florida Tennis.

His journalistic contributions are even more impressive when you realize he does it primarily on a volunteer basis.

Mary Jane McGregor of Gainesville
Motto: "The Friend at Court"

klingenbergMary Jane McGregor, who began her officiating career in 2000 so she could join her husband and umpire with him after they retired, has been involved in the umpiring aspect of the sport from both an amateur and professional perspective.
In addition to officiating at most of the University of Florida collegiate matches, which is an assignment that challenges her to be in control of a high-pressure event, Mary Jane especially enjoys working at numerous USTA League tournaments.

"These events allow me to 'come home' because I see so many of these players on a regular basis," she said. "I especially enjoy working with the 2.5 teams. They are so enthusiastic and just love the experience."

One recent experience at the USTA Florida Adult Mixed Championships epitomized why she loves to officiate.

"A man thanked me for his 'best tournament ever' -- and he lost," she said.

Over the years, various players have expressed to Mary Jane how much they appreciate her calm manor in applying the rules of tennis and creating equitable on-court judgments.

Gina Field of Tallahassee
Motto: "If You Keep on Doing What You've Always Done, You Are Always Going to Have What You Already Got!"

field-2When Gina Field began competing as a 2.5 player in a local USTA League in 2005, she quickly got bitten by the "tennis bug," which in the past had only extended to following -- and loving -- every minute she watched of the sport on TV.

Within a short time, Gina was serving as a local league coordinator, which is a role she has relished since the very first day.

"I have a strong organizational background and pretty thick skin," she said. "I thought I could handle the responsibility, but whew, if I only knew how many opportunities I would have to test those skills."

Her current responsibilities include coordinating the adult women's night leagues as well as her recently-added role as Senior and Super Senior division men's and women's leagues coordinator this past year, which occurred when a local league coordinator resigned in the middle of the season and Gina stepped in for the remainder of the year.

"My involvement with USTA Florida has meant a lot of wonderful new friendships formed and new challenges to overcome," she said. "I keep finding myself getting more and more involved and loving every minute of the experience."

West Coast Super Senior Cat II, ITF Level I
Motto: "Unmistakably University Park"

al mills-2When University Park Country Club was asked to host the West Coast Super Senior Cat II, ITF Level I Grand Prix tournament in November 2010 just two months prior to the scheduled start of the event, panic could have ensued, especially since the club's staff had never hosted a tournament of this size or magnitude before.

Fortunately, University Park Country Club and its personnel were ready, willing, and able to assume the challenge and determined to make it the best tournament in the series.
Based on the feedback received from the competitors, the club accomplished its goals by providing an unparalleled experience that reflected its commitment to excellent service and top-notch facilities.

During the tournament, the club provided food daily for the competitors in a designated players' lounge, created a welcoming spectator area on the tennis center's beautifully-manicured lawns, and hosted two low-cost evening events for the players.

Many of the competitors said the event was the best-run tournament they had ever played in, which isn't surprising when you consider that University Park Country Club has been voted "Best Place to Play Tennis" by Sarasota Magazine for 18 consecutive years.

Donna Fales of Coral Gables
Motto: "Patience and Perseverance Rule the Day"

fales-2Despite all the accomplishments the great Roger Federer has racked up in his legendary career, he will never match the incredible statistic of not having lost a singles match since July 2009. The woman who can lay claim to this amazing achievement is Donna Fales, who has spent an amazing five decades at or near the top of the sport in every age group she has participated in.

During a successful pro career that stretched from 1960 through 1976, Donna maintained a Top 10 U.S. ranking six times, reaching a career-high of No. 5 in 1960 and 1962 and winning the national mixed doubles title in 1966.

As recently as October 2011, Donna was the top-ranked player in the International Tennis Federation (ITF) world rankings in the Women's 70 division, winning the ITF World Singles and Doubles Championships in Antalya, Turkey in October 2010 and captaining the Althea Gibson Cup Team, which won the ITF World Team Championships.

In April 2011, she continued her triumphant streak, capturing the USTA National Women's 70 Clay Court Championships.

Mario Tabares of Miami
Motto: "You're the Top!"

tabares-2Mario Tabares has compiled a No. 1-ranked, undefeated season unlike any other player in USTA Florida history in 2011 at USTA national adult events.

Over the past tennis season, Mario rang-up a jaw-dropping 26-0 singles record and captured the No. 1 ranking in singles and doubles in both the USTA Florida and USTA National Men's 45 divisions.
Since November 2010, he has enjoyed a pristine run that includes winning singles titles at the USTA National Men's 45 Indoor Championships, the USTA National Men's 45 Clay Court Championships, the USTA National Men's 45 Hard Court Championships, and the USTA National Men's 45 Grass Court Championships.

However, his passion for tennis doesn't end there. In addition to owning a tennis store in Miami, MT Tennis Touch, he also finds time to teach tennis when he's not competing in tournaments across the country.

It's not an understatement when Tabares says, "Tennis surrounds every day of my life."


Seminole County Fall Super Series
Motto: "We Will Rock You"

bobbie-2The Seminole County Fall Super Series chose the classic Queen song "We Will Rock You" to describe its approach to coordinating the event because it strives to ensure that when the tournament concludes, the 140 or so players are suitably impressed and enjoy all aspects of the competitive and social experience.

Each year, Sanlando Park hosts seven USTA Florida-sanctioned youth tennis tournaments. In addition to the Seminole County Fall Super Series, Sanlando Park hosts the USTA Florida 10 & Under and 12 & Under state championships, a designated event in February, the USTA Florida State Closed 16's and 18's doubles championships in September, a sectional junior event in October, and a rookie event in November.

The facility has also hosted many collegiate events such as The NCAA Division II Championships and the Sunshine State Conference Championships.

Cary Cohenour of Sarasota
Motto: "Hope!"

Cohenour2-from-AM-webSince opening Celsius Tennis Academy in 2000, Cary Cohenour has been instrumental in instilling a sense of pride, confidence, and commitment to both the sport of tennis and personal growth and development in all his athletes, whether they are starting out in the sport in programs such as 10 & Under Tennis, or working to become collegiate-level or professional tennis players.

Cohenour's passion for both the sport and players has helped more than 500 children learn and embrace the sport of tennis, both as a fun way to get exercise as well as a way to learn about the joys and challenges of competitive play.

His commitment has spurred opportunities for many Celsius athletes to go on to qualify for college scholarships at more than 30 of the country's leading colleges and universities such as Harvard, Brown, Columbia, Princeton, Georgetown, Johns Hopkins, the University of Florida, the University of Miami, Tulane, NYU, and Syracuse University.

Alex del Corral of Doral
Motto: "Hard Work Really Does Pay Off"

del corral-2How apt it is that Alex del Corral chose the phrase "hard work really does pay off" to describe his approach to life and tennis?
Currently ranked No. 1 in both the USTA Florida and USTA National Boys' 12 divisions, Alex compiled an enviable list of tournament triumphs throughout 2011.

In fact, it's likely his trophy case was overflowing after winning the singles and doubles titles at USTA Florida events like the Ives Summer Super Series and the Coral Springs Super Series, and capturing the singles crowns at the Melanefy Fall Designated, the Polo Club Local, and the EKTA Super Series.

On the national level, Alex continued his winning ways, capturing the singles and doubles titles at the USTA National Open Boys' 12s and the singles crown at the USTA Boys' 12 National Spring Championships.
Playing up a division, he also went undefeated in the USTA Boys' 14 Zone Team Championships in both singles and doubles.

2011 USTA FLORIDA JIMMY GANTT MEMORIAL (Player Who Has Overcome Adversity) AWARD
Scott Plutt of Weston
Motto: "The Only One Who Can Tell You 'You Can't,' Is You. And You Don't Have to Listen"

plutt-2Scott Plutt, who is currently ranked in the Top 25 in the USTA Florida Boys' 14 singles division, has been playing tennis for most of his life. However, his on-court success has required him to do much more than just keep his eye on the ball during a match.

Because he suffers from Tourettes Syndrome, which is a neurological disorder characterized by repetitive, stereotyped, involuntary movements and vocalizations called tics, the condition can wreak havoc during a match when stress levels are higher than normal.

Despite suffering from the syndrome, Scott has never quit a match because of his condition, even though the heightened anxiety forces him to deal with much more than the strokes his opponent sends over the net.
Calling on a courageous inner reserve of strength, Scott has exhibited an amazing ability to accept himself, which in turn has taught the tennis world how to accept and admire him.

Thanks to his indomitable spirit, Scott is happily living his dream to play top-level tennis.


Marc McLean of Cape Coral
Motto: "Dream it, Believe it, Achieve it"

mclean-2Before a horrific car accident in 1987 left a then 18-year-old Marc McLean a quadriplegic, he had led an active athletic life that included playing football and basketball, running track, and participating in gymnastics. Dealing with such a traumatic life event could have led Marc down a very depressive path.

However, instead of wallowing in self-pity, he looked toward his future with optimism, earning his high school diploma a year later and then receiving a Bachelor of Science degree with an emphasis in Therapeutic Recreation from Illinois State University.
In addition to his educational pursuits, Marc continued his love affair with various sports, taking up wheelchair racing and participating in both national and international events, winning numerous medals and awards and setting both state and national records.

Over the years, he has also played quad rugby and served as a goalie for the Fort Myers Eels sled hockey team. After relocating to Florida, Marc was introduced to wheelchair tennis in 1999 and won the first Florida tournament he played. In 2000, after attaining the No. 1 ranking in the Quad A division and being named Florida Wheelchair Tennis Athlete of the Year, he moved up to the Quad Open division in 2001. Over the past decade, Marc has ranked in the Top 10 of both the Quad Open singles and doubles divisions.

In 2011, his winning ways continued when he triumphed at the 2011 Quad Open singles at the Grand Rapids (Mich.) Championship and the 2011 Quad Open doubles at Hilton Head, S.C. Adding to his already-illustrious resume, he became a Professional Tennis Registry-certified tennis instructor in 2003, becoming the first quadriplegic in the world to be certified by the PTR.

Deb Anderson of Clermont
Motto: "No, No, No, No, No, No!"

anderson-2Taking "no" for an answer is not something Deb Anderson accepts easily, which she readily admits.

"I rarely take 'no' for an answer because I figure there is always a way to make something work," she says. "I once asked my husband to make a call for me to ask a guy if he would play in a league, but when the guy told him no and my husband accepted it too readily, I told my husband it would probably be better if he didn't make the calls after all."

Not surprisingly, when she called the gentleman back, he agreed to play in the league. Because of her tireless efforts, numerous leagues have been created in Lake County since 2007. Prior to that time, no leagues had existed in the area since the early 1980s.

Anderson, who serves as president of the Lake County Tennis Association, is understandably proud of the milestones she and other area volunteers have achieved, such as establishing 10 & Under Tennis events, running a Jr. Team Tennis program, and getting six tennis courts built at North Lake Regional Park. 


Rodney Harmon of Miramar
Motto: "It Doesn't Matter How Many Times You Get Knocked Down, But How Many Times You Get Back Up in Life!"

harmon-2Over the years, Rodney Harmon has been actively involved in promoting multicultural diversity and inclusion in tennis.

"Tennis has been my life, and I want to share my love of the sport with others, especially young people," said Harmon, who served as the 2008 U.S. men's tennis Olympics head coach, was named the 2010 USPTR Member of the Year, and volunteers on the 2011 PTR Board of Directors.

From August 1997 through January 2002, he acted as director of multicultural development for the USTA. In this role, he had the opportunity to work with various USTA sectional staff and volunteers, allied organizations, local tennis programs, coaches, and players to help provide tennis to underserved communities.
During his time in this position, he was able to introduce, with the help of the USTA Multicultural Participation Committee and the USTA Board of Directors, a new Individual Player Grant Program to provide funding to talented young players to participate in regional and national events.

Since leaving the position in 2002, Rodney has continued to stay involved in this area through his work with the Camp ACE programs in the USTA Florida and Eastern sections, as well as by providing advice and on-court training to talented male and female multicultural players.

Jackie Keller of St. Petersburg
Motto: "It's All About the Kids"

kellerJackie Keller's commitment to the children in her community is evidenced through her participation as an NJTL (National Junior Tennis & Learning) chapter leader. Over the past decade, Jackie, who is an active USTA League player, increased program participation from five to 300 children.

She has also helped grow the program, which is coordinated through the St. Petersburg Tennis Foundation, by actively seeking and receiving a number of USTA education grants, as well as a USTA Florida Share the Love grant.

Keller, who serves as director of the Courier's Kids Program and director of programs and development at the St. Petersburg Tennis Center, also acts as a coordinator of Jr. Team Tennis and assists with the NJTL First Serve Chapter.

Her dedication to NJTL is witnessed by the fact that the St. Petersburg Tennis Foundation has produced many winners in the NJTL National Student Athlete Competition, which enables 5th-12th graders to earn $75,000 in college scholarships each year.


Debbie Maronic and Steve Vanoer of Tampa
Motto: "Taking Care of Business"

In their respective roles as supervisor of K-12 physical education and health and district resource teacher for K-12 physical education and health at Hillsborough County Public Schools, Steve Vanoer and Debbie Maronic have helped train approximately 750 P.E. teachers through the USTA School tennis program.

Their introduction to the program began in October 2007 when over 300 elementary and middle school P.E. teachers were trained by USTA staff to teach the USTA School Tennis curriculum. Later that year, Hillsborough County Public Schools began offering an after-school program at approximately 40 sites.

Between 2007 and 2010, Maronic and Vanoer offered three additional in-service trainings for its teachers. In the spring of 2010, they once again piloted an after-school program at seven sites culminating with a Play Day at the HCC Tampa Tennis facility for 50 students from three schools. That was followed in August 2011 by a training they did for 186 elementary physical education teachers from 145 elementary schools.

Currently they are expanding local after-school programs through partnerships with HCC Tampa Tennis, Hillsborough County Parks and Recreation, the City of Tampa, Hillsborough County Tennis Association, and the school district's after-school program.

Anita Klingenberg of Longwood
Motto: "Be the Change You Wish to See in the World"

mcgregor-2Since becoming the local league coordinator for Region 4 at the beginning of 2010, about 1,100 players have registered to play Jr. Team Tennis in the region, which is a statistic Anita Klingenberg is extremely proud to proclaim.

In the spring of 2010, she initiated the USTA High School Region 4 Conference for players who were cut from their school tennis teams or did not make the top five lineup. The High School Conference, which is held at the same time as varsity tennis, culminated in a county playoff featuring Seminole and Orange County vs. Volusia County.

In the fall, the High School Conference league offers match play and doubles clinics for players to prepare them for school tryouts. Because she is always conceiving new ways to improve programming, Anita is planning a middle school league for the region's Jr. Team Tennis program for Spring 2012.

Her altruistic endeavors also include serving as a mentor to a new local league coordinator from Hillsborough County. Because she practices what she preaches, Anita Klingenberg is indeed making the change she wishes to see in the world.






Print Article Email Article Newsletter Signup Share