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Amelia Island Debuts New Pro Tennis Event

September 28, 2009 07:00 PM
Amelia Island, Fla., last year lost its long-running professional women’s tennis tournament, but later this year will debut a new men’s pro event to be played at the same site, the historic Amelia Island Plantation.

A men’s $10,000 Futures USTA Pro Circuit event, a lower-level pro event featuring some of the rising stars of professional tennis, will debut at the Amelia Island Plantation on Nov. 14-22, 2009. The venue for 29 years hosted a WTA Tour event that last year relocated south to Ponte Vedra Beach and became The MPS Group Championships at the Sawgrass Country Club. One year later, professional tennis returns to Amelia Island.

“I have been around the Plantation for about six years of the Bausch & Lomb [former WTA event] and know how much the tennis players in the area miss seeing tennis at that level,” said Kelly Gunterman, director tennis at Amelia Island Plantation and tournament director for the USTA Pro Circuit event. “The Futures, with the help of the USTA, is a great way to get a high-quality professional event without the expense of a large tour event.”

The event will have a unique charity spin, with proceeds to benefit Gunterman’s organization, Tennis Without Borders, as well as local organizations.

“A few years ago my wife and I went to Uganda to teach tennis, and I realized how little the developing nations have in all aspects of their lives, and that they have almost nothing when it comes to tennis equipment,” Gunterman said. “While we were there we worked with the Ugandan Davis Cup team, one day we had to stop practice because we ran out of rackets, the team had broken the strings in the only rackets they had available. Tennis Without Borders has been a dream of mine since that trip and this summer I incorporated and received our 501c3 status.  We are planning another trip to Africa this coming January, if all goes well. We are always looking for donations of old rackets to take with us to give to the children.”

USTA Pro Circuit Futures-level events are the places to catch the next rising stars. John Isner and Melanie Oudin recently rose through the Futures ranks to break through at ATP/WTA tour and Grand Slam events.

“The Futures in the tennis world are a lot like the minor leagues of professional baseball,” Gunterman said. “A young player you see at Amelia Island in November may be at the US Open in a couple of years. These guys who will be playing are really great players and are worth a trip to Amelia Island to see some great tennis.”

Children will also be a focus during the event. Numerous clinics and play opportunities will be featured in additional to spotlighting QuickStart Tennis, the program with smaller nets, racquets and light-weight balls that let players 10-and-under develop on a kid-friendly court.

“We are working with the USTA to do a couple of kids days, one with a Quickstart clinic for the younger players and another day for older children,” said Gunterman, who is in the process of lining up additional charitable giving to the local community. “On Friday through the Sunday of the finals there will be a $10 for adults and $5 for children donation all going to local charities, including the Mal Washington Foundation, Linda's Legacy Foundation, and the Fernandina Beach Rotary Club. Other events will benefit the Communities in Schools program here on the island."

For ticket for other information regarding the Nov. 14-22, 2009, USTA Pro Circuit Futures event at Amelia Island, go to www.aipfl.com or e-mail guntermank@aipfl.com.





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