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OVERHEAD SMASH: Tallahassee Challenger volunteers

June 27, 2006 09:31 AM

Photo credit: Jeff Swain, Performance Video

The 2006 USTA Tallahassee Challenger – a $50,000 pro-circuit event – was held at the Forestmeadows Tennis Complex April 1-8.  The entire tournament was run completely by volunteers, and USTA Florida would like to recognize the more than 300 who helped with the 2006 event!

Volunteers included tournament staff, Web site design and maintenance staff, community event volunteers and those who housed umpires and players; volunteers helped with transportation, umpire/player/ball kid food, the tournament desk, concession stand and VIP tent, court maintenance, and individuals served as ball kids and adult ball babes and ball bucks.

Tournament director Karen Lyn Vogter and tournament chair Maria Yealdhall were extremely proud and thankful for the time and energy hundreds of local volunteers put into the event.

“It takes a huge amount of community support and effort to run this event,” Vogter said.  “I think what makes this event interesting and unique is that most people do not regard pro-circuit events as having anything to do with growing tennis.  For our event, that was one of our primary goals.”

During the week of the Challenger, community events were held daily, getting people of all ages and ability levels out on the courts.  USTA Florida Community Consultant Kelly Tucker chaired the community events for the Challenger.

Among others, college and middle school events were held; a wheelchair tennis exhibition, tennis carnivals and clinics, senior events, health screenings, and a Special Olympics event, which is the most popular and a favorite among Leon County children.

“Kelly organized all these wonderful events,” Vogter said.  “She does the most amazing job!”

All community events were funded through a community involvement day grant from the USTA Pro-Circuit.  K-Swiss, Greenberg Traurig, Capital Eurocars—PORSCHE, Vera Bradley, Gamma, USTA Florida and the Tennis Against Breast Cancer Foundation were a few event sponsors.

Presented by fifth-year sponsor The Florida Lottery, the Challenger is a non-profit event that benefits the D. Mark Vogter Memorial Endowment for Neuro-Intensive Care at Tallahassee Memorial Healthcare.  To date, more than $158,000 has been raised for the endowment.

The 2006 event also held the first Sharon Ewing Walker Pro-Am, sponsored by Beth and Lawton Langford, in honor of their friend and fellow Challenger volunteer who died last year of breast cancer.  Just under $10,000 was raised in two hours thanks to participating pro and local players.

Through generous donations from Roy and Billie Messer, the USTA Pro-Circuit and the Challenger Group, the 2006 Tallahassee Challenger raised $46,125 to build a stadium court at Forestmeadows. Tallahassee Friends of Our Parks Foundation stepped up to the plate to purchase stadium lighting when fundraising was short, Vogter said. The City of Tallahassee was very generous in donating staff, site design, site prep, installation of lighting and event preparation.  The stadium court was dedicated and donated to the city.

Roy and Billie Messer donated $40,000 to the Challenger so we could build the stadium court for the community,” Vogter said.  “They are really fantastic people.  Every community should be lucky enough to have someone like them around!”

“We even had the court painted in US Open blue and green,” Vogter said.  “This hopefully helped the public make the connection that this is the same caliber of tennis they can see during the US Open Series and the US Open.”

Four very special USTA volunteers were honored for the hundreds of hours they devote to help grow the game of tennis in Tallahassee and the Florida Section:

Liz Lawson, Carl Weathington, Linda Frazier and Mel McCarthy

To recognize this dedication, their names were added to the USTA "Walk of Fame" at Forestmeadows in a special court dedication ceremony the Friday evening of the Challenger.

Liz Lawson is the soul of Gadsden County tennis.  She supported junior tennis in her area by transporting kids to matches and making sure they had racquets, balls and nets for play.  Liz was the founder of the Gadsden Strikers junior team that she took to Tampa every year.  Liz also was a long-time official for local, collegiate and professional tennis events.

Carl Weathington has been volunteering for the USTA for more than 15 years.  He has served as a league captain and local league coordinator.  Carl has also served on many committees for USTA Florida, and he travels throughout the state to assist in running tournaments.  Carl was one of the founding members of the Tallahassee Tennis Association.

Linda Frazier started playing tennis when she attended the University of Florida, and hasn't slowed down since.  For many years, she was a local league coordinator and league captain.  Linda was the Regional Director for Section 1, served on the Florida Section Board of Directors, and was a member of the TTA Board for many years.  She served as an umpire for many years and has been active in promoting improvements for tennis facilities in Tallahassee.  Linda also writes a tennis column in the Tallahassee Democrat.

Mel McCarthy – one of the movers and shakers with the Golden Boys, who were responsible for convincing the city to build the new clay courts.  In addition to organizing the Golden Boys, Mel also volunteers his time for the USTA and has been a local league coordinator, league captain and chair of local USTA committees.  Mel also volunteers his time to assist with local TTA tournaments.


Local USTA volunteers:

  • Karen MacFarland, Regional Director
  • Kelly Tucker, Community Coordinator
  • Gina Field, Leon County Representative
  • Tim Thompson, Jefferson County Rep
  • Anne Davis, USTA National

Local league coordinators:

  • Suki Daffin
  • Gina Field
  • Carl Weathington
  • Roby Kendall
  • Russ Marsh

Tallahassee Tennis Association:

  • President Kim Damron
  • Executive Director Margaret Ferris

THANK YOU to all involved in the wonderful success of the 2006 USTA Tallahassee Challenger!  Keep up the great work in promoting and developing tennis in your community!


Know someone who is OVERHEAD SMASH-worthy?

USTA Florida features tennis lovers, players of all ages and skill levels, and those who dedicate their time and energy to TENNIS!  E-mail us, durrance@florida.usta.com, with the nominee’s name, contact information, (e-mail and phone number,) and a description of why you think he/she deserves to be featured.
Please note: We can respond only to those who are chosen as OVERHEAD SMASHers.






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