Junior Classic: Tennis Tourney Exudes 68 Years of History
Saturday marked the final day of competition in the 68th Pinehurst Junior Tennis Classic, contested on the Pinehurst Resort Tennis Club’s 18 clay-surface courts.
The annual event is the longest consecutive junior tournament in the state and is a United States Tennis Association (USTA) sanctioned, boys and girls level 4 tournament consisting of five age groups, including 10-and-under, 12U, 14U, 16U and 18U.
Bracket play began Thursday with the majority of age-class finals concluding Saturday afternoon. Complete and official results can be obtained online at tennislink.usta.com/tournaments.
“We hold the Pinehurst Junior Tennis Classic this time every year,” said Pinehurst Parks and Recreation Department Recreation programmer David White, who also served as the tournament’s director. “The Southern Pines Recreation and Parks Department, Sandhills Tennis Association and Pinehurst Tennis Club help the Pinehurst Parks and Recreation Department put on this tournament, along with several volunteers and local certified tennis referees.
“This tennis tournament means a lot to the community because any excess of funds from the tournament go to the Sandhills Tennis Association, which in turn helps provide tennis opportunities to youth in the area. Also by playing in this (tournament) players will accrue USTA points and help improve their rankings. There are 92 total participants this year.”
Of that number, 26 players call Moore County home, while another 10 competitors hail from the nearby cities of Sanford and Fayetteville.
Legendary Union Pines High School tennis coach and North Carolina High School Athletic Association Hall of Fame member John Frye discussed the impact of the tournament on local tennis, as well as its rich history in the Sandhills while watching several of his current Viking players.
“This event has been here for years and years,” said Frye. “Before it was called the Pinehurst Classic it was called the Sandhills Classic — back when Terrell West and I ran it for years and years and years — and there were even others that were here before us.
“Now Pinehurst has taken it over and they do a fine job. The prestige of this tournament and the atmosphere is what set it apart. You are surrounded by history here: the Carolina Hotel, the Women’s Exchange and Marshall Park — just so much history here since 1895.”
Frye holds an annual tennis school each summer in Cameron and those participants typically make up a sizable contingent at the Pinehurst Classic.
“We have five or six kids for sure, and maybe seven or eight that are out here competing who will be on our girls’ team this fall,” said Frye. “So it is exciting and the nice thing for us is all the kids know each other and know they are going to be playing each other so they all get involved.”
Melissa Tally, one of Frye’s prized pupils, was on hand to compete in early round 18U bracket play Friday. A two-time 3-A Cape Fear Valley Conference player of the year and member of the Vikings exclusive 100-plus career victory club, the rising senior won the 16U championship at the event as the 12th seed in the 16-player bracket last year.
“This one is close to home so I have played in it since I was 11 or 12,” said Tally. “It is nice to see so many people I know around and all the people from Union Pines. Also I have always done pretty well in this tournament so it brings back good memories every year and that is always a good thing.”
While the tournament field is primarily made up of players from across North Carolina, 11 out-of-state contestants competed in the event including two from Florida, two from New York, three from Arizona and four from neighboring South Carolina.
Longtime volunteer Jack Baker of Pinehurst has been helping run the check-in tent for several years at the event and has yet to consider calling it quits. He loves the sport too much to stay away.
“I enjoy the game very much,” Baker said, “and enjoy helping out the kids. It is fun to watch the new up and coming players develop and progress in the game from year to year. I have been living in Pinehurst for 18 years now and I believe this is probably my 15th straight year as a volunteer.
“I help out at all the tennis event here and it is a lot of fun. As far as this particular event, I think it has grown and the level of play has gotten increasingly better. Plus people love coming to Pinehurst — I mean Pinehurst is Pinehurst. Many of them look forward to coming here because Pinehurst is the jewel.”
Contact F.W. Manning II at email@example.com.
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