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Suncoast Tennis Foundation Tournament of Champions

February 6, 2008 01:30 PM

SUNCOAST TENNIS FOUNDATION DRAWS RECORD NUMBER FOR ANNUAL FUNDRAISER

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With more than 180 players, the 6th Annual Suncoast Tennis Foundation (STF)  Tournament of Champions attracted its largest draw in its history.  The tournament is an invitation-only event and featured the top tennis players from the six major charity tennis tournaments held in Pinellas County in 2007.  To qualify, a player had to finish as a winner, semi-finalist, finalist or consolation winner from those tournaments.  The event was held Jan. 18-20 at East Lake Woodlands Country Club in Oldsmar.

The Tournament raised over $9,500 for the Foundation’s grassroots tennis projects.  “The money raised helps STF in assisting disadvantaged children and adults who cannot afford equipment and lessons to play tennis,” said Judy Foster, executive director of the STF.  “Over the past four years, the Foundation has facilitated the distributing of over 400 free, refurbished tennis racquets and thousands of used tennis balls to elementary, middle and high school programs, as well as to inner city groups."

Due to the generosity of Knology, the presenting sponsor, over 85 individuals and companies made either financial or in-kind donations to the tournament and of course, the players.  The proceeds realized from the tournament allow the Foundation to continue providing financial assistance so children and adults can participate in a wide variety of tennis programs. 

For example, last year, transportation was provided for 350 fifth grade students to two elementary "Fun Days" held in North and South county.  Additionally, STF has formed numerous partnerships with groups such as the Pinellas County Police Athletic League, Big Brothers & Big Sisters, Boys and Girls Clubs of the Suncoast, and other charity tennis tournaments.

Kelly Wilhite, winner of both the women’s 3.5 and the mixed 3.5 said, “I like the concept of the Tournament of Champions, and especially the fact that you have to qualify to play in it.”

“The Foundation is providing a lot of good tennis in Pinellas," added Karen Radazzo, who collected two titles in the women’s 4.5 and mixed 4.5.  "I think the tournament concept is great.“

Ken Emery won the 4.0 mixed and 4.0 men’s titles.  He compared the competition at the Tournament of Champions with trips to Daytona Beach, where many USTA Florida section tournaments take place.  “Every match in this tournament was a tough match, just like you find when you go to Daytona Beach,” Emery said.  “In some of the charity tournaments the matches get tougher towards the end, but this was different because you had the top finishers from other tournament competing.”

Foster explained that the concept of the Tournament of Champions has played a major role in the growth of tennis in Pinellas County.  “The other charity tennis tournaments include wording such as ‘This tournament is a qualifier for the Suncoast Tournament of Champions.’  It encourages more people to sign up and play when they get a chance to qualify for the Tournament of Champions.” 

Winners, semifinalists, finalists and consolation winners from this event qualified for the 7th Annual STF Tournament of Champions to be held in 2009.

 

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