Rain affects tennis tourney

Published 11:42 pm Friday, June 3, 2011

Fred Ferguson serves during the 32nd Annual Natchez Community Cancer Tennis Tournament Friday afternoon at Duncan Park. Day one of the tournament was delayed for a while due to a late-afternoon thunderstorm.

NATCHEZ — Weather played a big role in Friday’s action at the 32nd annual Natchez Community Cancer Tennis Tournament at Duncan Park and Beau Pré Country Club.

What started out as extreme heat, ended with a late-afternoon thunderstorm that forced the players off the courts.

Despite the weather, there was a good turnout and day one of the tournament went very well, co-chairperson of the tournament Noreen Pyron said.

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“(Day one) is going great, it’s hot, (but) it’s running smoothly,” Pyron said. “I’m very pleased (with the turnout), we didn’t know what it would be like (because of the flood).”

Play did resume at approximately 8 p.m. after the storm passed.

Pyron said there were approximately 130 players, approximately 25 more than last year’s event. Pyron said more than half of those players were from out of town.

Pyron has been running the tournament for approximately 25 years, and one aspect of the tournament she enjoys is seeing return visitors, she said.

“I enjoy seeing everybody,” Pyron said. “I enjoy seeing people come back, because it’s for a good cause.”

The money raised through entry fees goes to the local cancer society, the Natchez Community Tennis Association and to send children to Camp Sunshine, Pyron said.

“The money stays in Natchez,” Pyron said.

Players from all over the Southeast come to the event, and many of them are return guests, Pyron said.

Kenny Gautreau and his wife Meleé from Baton Rouge are attending their third Cancer Tennis Tournament, Kenny said.

“We started coming, just (Meleé) and I, and this year we came with a group of (approximately) eight or 10,” Kenny said. “Next year we will probably bring 15 or 20.”

Pyron said she thinks the tournament’s big draw is the city of Natchez.

“I just think people love coming to Natchez,” Pyron said.

Jim Meyer, who is also from Baton Rouge, has been coming to the tournament for 15 years, he said.

“I love it, it’s the only tournament I attend every year,” Meyer said. “It’s just a great event.”

Meyer and his partner Tom Fisk were up a set and tied 5-5 in the second, when lightning delayed play. But weather affecting the tournament is nothing new to him, he said.

“One year we played the finals back in Baton Rouge, because it got rained out,” he said.

Meyer said the cause is important to him, as well, and last year he donated extra money in addition to his $25 registration fee.

Although rain slowed play Friday evening, Pyron said they will work to get back on schedule today and Sunday.

“(The rain) is a bummer, but we hadn’t had rain in a month so we need it, just not during the tournament,” Pyron said. “(If we get delayed) we will just catch it back up.”

Pyron said they are providing fans and misters to help the players combat the heat during the tournament. But despite the heat the tennis is pretty competitive, even though it is just a benefit tournament, she said.

The tournament uses a USTA format that separates teams by USTA player ratings. Ratings range from 2.5 to 4.0 for ladies and 3.0 to 5.0 for men.

Play will resume at approximately 8 a.m. today and continue through Sunday afternoon, Pyron said.