April 6th, 2015

Broward Tennis Blog: Patch Reef Sanctioned Wheelchair Tourney Set for April 10

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Jim Tierney, and 2014 wheelchair players  Jan Proctor and Stu Contant .

Jim Tierney, and 2014 wheelchair players Signe Dietrichson and Veronica Grove.

Patch Reef Park, the Boca Raton city-owned tennis facility, is gearing up for its annual South Florida Open Wheelchair Championships the weekend of April 10-12, 2015.

Sanctioned by the USTA Florida, the 23-year-old tourney had been run for its first 20 years as a private tournament that was on a par with the wheelchair competitions at the four Grand Slam events.

After the passing of the tournament’s benefactors and the retirement of its directors, the existence of the Florida Open Inter Wheel Chair tournament was jeopardized, until the City of Boca Raton and Jim Tierney stepped in.

“It’s such a wonderful event, the people are so nice, and the players try so hard and work so hard at their game, I hated to see it end,” said Tierney, the Tennis Center’s Administrator.

Chair and Chair Alike

Jim’s heart is warmed by the overwhelming support of the community in supporting these physically-challenged athletes — 29 of whom participated last year from six states, including as far away as New York, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Texas. While it’s currently an amateur local event as compared to its professional international counterpart for the first 20 years, the excitement and fun generated continues to inspire the South Florida tennis community, which comes out to watch, cheer, and volunteer.

Out-of-town athletes are on their own for lodging, but the event has gained the support of the National Wheelchair Sports Fund, which is kicking in a stipend to help defray players’ expenses.

2014 players Jack Beaulieu, Allen Fiske, Curt Leatherbee, John Karter.

2014 players Jack Beaulieu, Allen Fiske, Curt Leatherbee, John Karter.

The tournament has numerous divisions by age and ability — and disability — including an Open, an A, a B, and a C, and separate divisions for quadriplegic players. This year’s tournament will also feature what Tierney referred to as an up/down round robin — a variation on the theme of mixed doubles – where each team sports a wheelchair player and an able-bodied partner.

Host club Patch Reef also runs a regular year-round Tuesday free clinic for wheelchair tennis players. Because of its huge commitment to tennis players who are unable to use their legs, Patch Reef Tennis is now recognized internationally as a wheelchair-friendly facility. And that friendliness comes from the huge hearts of Jim Tierney, the Patch Reef staff, and the many volunteers who care about those less fortunate than them.

If you’d like to volunteer for the event, or participate in the up/down round robin, call the Patch Reef Pro Shop at (561) 367-7090 for more information.