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franklin county times

Rain doesn't halt annual tourney

By By Jared Florreich / staff writer
July 9, 2003
Local tennis enthusiasts got together at Northeast Park Tuesday for the annual Sonny Montgomery Mystery Doubles Tournament. A rainout Monday shortened the event to a one-day affair.
Tournament organizers set up the event to coincide with Montgomery's honoring at last weekend's Fourth of July celebration.
In previous years the event has drawn over 100 players, but has declined in recent years, only drawing about 30 participants this year.
"I've played in the event for over 15 years and remember when we had bigger crowds," said Bruce Clopton of Meridian. "I hope it grows back to what it once was."
Other players, like Darryl and Toni Jackson, who won gold medals in the State Games tennis mixed doubles competition, played because they want to see tennis grow in Meridian.
"We played to support tennis in Meridian," the Jacksons said. "Northeast Park is a good place to learn the game of tennis, and we enjoy playing."
But all played, as Meridian native Lisa Howell put it, "To honor Sonny Montgomery."
Players and tournament organizers got a shock when Sonny Montgomery himself showed up. Montgomery was out of town Tuesday promoting his book, and tournament organizers said they didn't think he would be in attendance.
"Tennis is a wonderful sport, and I enjoy sponsoring this event," said Montgomery, who said his tennis tournament is the longest tournament (20-plus years) that Montgomery's name is associated with. "I'm very proud of the success we've had."
The format featured a mystery, in that players did not know who their playing partner was, or their opponent. Teams played to a combined score of 21 points. The top two individuals received plaques. The male winner was Jack Andy, and Nara Maddox and Lisa Howell tied for the women.
Michelle Pearson, operator of Northeast Park tennis pro shop and United States Tennis Association community chairman, said tennis is alive and well at Northeast Park, especially with the hire of tennis pro Kevin Gillette.
"We've got some up and coming kids and hiring Kevin was a big hire for us," Pearson said. "We've got 10 courts at Northeast Park, with each court having lights. Our vision for the future is to get covering for our courts, possibly expanding our courts, and drawing better tournaments."
Gillette hopes to build excitement for tennis in Meridian.
"We're looking to take things to the next level," said Gillette. "We're looking to grow the game, get kids and adults more involved, and draw bigger tournaments and events."
Gillette, on the job about two months, is one of two professionals on staff at Northeast Park. Anthony Hiatt is also on staff, and both are United States Professional Tennis Association certified.
Northeast Park is open to the public, and costs $3 to play. Membership fees are $150 individually for unlimited play, $200 for doubles, and $250 for families regardless of how big the family.