SALISBURY, MD---Some of the world’s top tennis pros mingle with local amateurs and families during the ninth annual Jack Purnell-Chris Thomas Memorial Tennis Tournament at Salisbury University.
The event opens with Community Tennis Night from 5-9 p.m. Tuesday, August 14, at the SU tennis courts on College Avenue. Guests of all ages are invited to meet this year’s players in person and watch them compete in events including fastest and most accurate serve competitions. SU tennis coach Randy Halfpap hosts a free Junior Tennis Clinic for players ages 18 and under beginning at 4:30 p.m.
At 6 p.m., local amateurs also will have a chance to play with the professionals during the tournament’s third annual pro-am challenge. The entry fee for amateur players is a $50 tax-deductable contribution to Coastal Hospice, the tournament’s beneficiary. Space is limited, and advance sign-ups are recommended.
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 15-19.
Many professional players ranked as high as 150 in the world will enter the draw. Some 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. Veterans of the tournament have been the focus of international attention at Wimbledon and, more recently, at the Summer Olympics in London, where they represented their countries.
In addition to the pros and amateurs, local television personalities battle for bragging rights at this year’s tournament during the second annual Coastal Hospice Challenge 10 a.m. Saturday, August 18, at 10 a.m. Doubles teams from WBOC and WMDT are expected to pick up the rackets in this friendly winners-take-all competition.
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.
Admission is to the tournament 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.