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Press Releases

Monday, July 29, 2013

Purnell-Thomas Tennis Tournament Adds Amateur Competition August 12-17

Purnell-Thomas MemorialSALISBURY, MD---The Jack Purnell-Chris Thomas Memorial Tennis Tournament is not just for the pros anymore!

New this year is a 32-draw men’s singles amateur tournament. Amateur play begins 5 p.m. Monday, August 12, and ends with a finals match on Saturday, August 17. The top two finishers receive an all-expenses-paid trip to Hawaii to play in the Mercedes Benz Dealer Sectional Championships, scheduled November 13-17 at the Hyatt Regency Maui Resort. The top team from each sectional tournament within the amateur competition wins a VIP trip to the 2014 U.S. Open in New York.

Registration for the amateur tournament is $25 per person. To sign up and for more information, including eligibility requirements, visit the amateur tournament Web site at

Of course, the pros will be on hand, as well. Each August for the past nine years, the Purnell-Thomas Tournament, hosted at Salisbury University, has attracted outstanding young players for five days of competition as they vie for some $30,000 in prize money. Some leave Salisbury and play in the U.S. Open. This year’s event begins a day early to allow players to compete in an Association for Tennis Professionals (ATP) World Tournament in North Carolina.

In conjunction with the opening of the amateur tournament, the third annual Community Tennis Night takes places from 5-9 p.m. Monday, August 12, on the north lawn of Holloway Hall, adjacent to the courts. The public is invited to meet this year’s pro players during this festive event.

The pro tournament begins at noon Tuesday, August 13, with play continuing until approximately 9 p.m. each night through Thursday. The singles and doubles semi-finals are Friday, August 16, beginning at 5 p.m. Finals are noon Saturday, August 17.

Proceeds from the tournament benefit Coastal Hospice. To date, donations have exceeded $175,000. Six years ago the tournament marked a milestone by dedicating a room at the “Hospice by the Lake” facility in memory of the tournament’s namesakes, Jack Purnell and Chris Thomas.

Both loved tennis and sports in general. Born in 1929, Purnell was an avid baseball player. He 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.  He returned to Salisbury and for many years managed his family’s business, Kuhn’s Jewelers. He was a community advocate and a founding board member of the Salisbury University Foundation, Inc., and Coastal Hospice prior to his 2002 death.

Thomas was a natural athlete, graduating from SU, where he was a member of the men’s tennis team. Following graduation he worked as a tennis pro in Guam and Hawaii. He returned home in 1981 to fight a year-long battle with melanoma. He died in 1982 at age 27.

Professional tennis has a long tradition in Salisbury. In the 1960s promoter Bill Riordan introduced the city’s first international tournament. The city then hosted the U.S. National Indoors Tennis Tournament from 1964-72 at the Wicomico Youth & Civic Center.

Purnell-Thomas Tournament directors are still seeking host families within a 15-minute radius of the SU tennis courts, for this year’s pro players. Those interested should contact Michele Thomas at 410-726-9126 or e-mail

Sponsors for this year’s tournament include Mercedes-Benz of Salisbury, Pohanka Automotive Group, The Bank of Delmarva, SU, the Philip and Barbara Long Family Foundation, Kuhn’s Jewelers, Thomas P. Monahan Builder and Developer, Yard Designs, Peninsula Plastic Surgery and Comcast Spotlight.

Admission is free and the public is invited. For more information, visit

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