SALISBURY, MD---For the past six years, local tennis fans have had a chance to see professional players from around the world compete in the annual Jack Purnell-Chris Thomas Memorial Tennis Tournament, held at Salisbury University.
This year, they get to play with them.
The first annual Purnell-Thomas pro-am event is 6-8 p.m. Thursday, August 19. Organizer Theresa Wise calls it a one-of-a-kind opportunity for many players.
“What people want to do is hit a ball with a professional,” she said. “Who has not wanted to do that?”
Players in the overall tournament make that dream come true for those entering the pro-am. Wise, who coaches tennis at Parkside High School, said amateurs signed up so far range from teenagers to local celebrities, including Wicomico County Circuit Court Judge W. Newton “Newt” Jackson III.
“It sounds like it will be a lot of fun,” said Jackson, who has attended every Purnell-Thomas Tournament to date, as well as its predecessor, the Chris Thomas Memorial Tennis Tournament. “It will be a thrill to play with the pros.”
Admission to enter the pro-am is a $50 donation to Coastal Hospice. Players must register by Thursday, August 12. To register or for more information call Wise at 410-860-0645 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
The pro-am may be a welcome diversion for some players, who will compete for $30,000 in prize money during the five-day men’s open doubles and singles tournament, Wednesday-Sunday, August 18-22. All proceeds benefit Coastal Hospice.
Many professional players ranked as high as 150 in the world will be entering the draw. Some players take advantage of the proximity of this tournament to the U.S. Open Tennis Championships in New York City as a warm-up and practice for the Open. The court surface and weather conditions, including heat and humidity are similar to those the players experience in the Big Apple the week following Purnell-Thomas.
This year’s presenting tournament sponsor is Charles Baum and Patricia Purnell Baum. Other sponsors include Thomas P. Monahan, LLC; The Bank of Delmarva, Three Lower Counties Community Services; Kuhn’s Jewelers; and Yard Designs, Inc.
The tournament is named in honor of two late local tennis players. Born in 1929, Purnell was an avid baseball player and went on to become the youngest general manager for a farm team of the Cincinnati Reds before working in the public relations office of the National Baseball League. After returning to Salisbury he operated his family’s business, Kuhn’s Jewelers, and took up tennis and golf. He was a community advocate and founding board member of Coastal Hospice prior to dying of cancer in 2002.
Thomas grew up in southern New Jersey and Salisbury. A natural athlete, he was a graduate of SU, where he was a member of the men’s tennis team. He left the East Coast in 1980 to work as a tennis pro in Hawaii and Guam. He returned to the area in 1981 to fight a year-long battle with cancer, dying in 1982 at age 27.
Admission is free and the public is invited. Play is continuous daily from 10 a.m.-9:30 p.m. For more information visit the tournament Web site at www.purnell-thomas.org, or contact tournament coordinator Michele Thomas at 410-548-1100, ext. 1029, or email@example.com.