Cancer tennis tourney concludes today

Published 12:48 am Sunday, June 8, 2008

NATCHEZ — The 29th annual Natchez Community Tennis Tournament is in full swing this weekend. The round robin event started Friday afternoon and will conclude on Sunday with the championships.

Once held in May, organizer Noreen Pyron moved the tournament to June because of a higher turnout.

Pyron did say that heat was a major issue almost every year of the tournament, whether it was in May or June and said some people have even gone to the hospital some years.

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Despite the heat, around 160 people are competing in the event, about 60 more than when held in May.

Pyron credits this to the school year being over. Most players come from Natchez but a good number travel from as far as Jackson, Baton Rouge, or Lafayette, she said.

The players’ ages are just as diverse as their birthplaces. Anyone as young as 18 can play in a match, but this does not stop those who are more seasoned to come out and play.

The diverse age groups not only attract a wide spectrum of fans, but also skill levels. Because of this factor, men, women, and mixed doubles all are divided into appropriate skill levels. The higher the bracket number, the more skilled the players.

Men’s doubles one seed players, John Amoss and Benjamin Ward, have come out to play three times over the last four years. This is their second consecutive year being the high seed, having twice won the tournament before.

Whereas the true competitors can be observed, Amoss and Ward say they do not trek from their homes in New Orleans to Natchez Community Tennis Tournament because they want to win every year.

“We have a lot of family ties here,” Amoss said.

Both are Natchez natives, as is Amoss’ wife. The family ties, along with getting exercise and playing tennis, keeps them coming back yearly.

Pyron said she has been doing the tournament for over twenty years now. She states the love of tennis and the tournament’s intent keeps her going year in and year out.

Noreen’s passion has spread to her daughter Phebe and son Derek, who have both played key roles in the annual event. Phebe who lives in Lafayette, has recruited people from the area and her son, Derek, participates in the matches.

Noreen said she expected around $5,000 to be raised for cancer this weekend. A majority of the proceeds will go to Camp Rainbow or hospitals in the local area, with a small portion remaining to make improvements to the park’s tennis courts.

The matches conclude tomorrow, with women’s doubles starting at 9 a.m.