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Published: Sunday, 11/12/2000

Local courts can serve up a good time

BY BARBARA HENDEL
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Phyllis Bernstein and Nancy Winsor play a doubles game at Toledo Tennis Club. Phyllis Bernstein and Nancy Winsor play a doubles game at Toledo Tennis Club.
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Tennis is a smashing story year-round in the Toledo area, say players and pros who keep private clubs busy. “Toledo, with six clubs, has about as many tennis clubs as Columbus,” says pro/owner Mark Willingham, who adds, “this doesn't include the public courts and programs or the country clubs.”

Members join a certain club for a variety of reasons, from exercise and social activities to sport and competition. Jim Davis, another local owner and pro, says, “Tennis is a sport that you can start at any age and continue for a lifetime.”

Phyllis Bernstein agrees. Admitting she wasn't much of an athlete growing up, as an adult she says she has played tennis for years. She likes its convenience, among other things, she adds. “I never forget my tennis ... I would drop everything to go play a tennis game.”

That some take it more seriously than others seems to be the consensus of just about everyone - and women interviewed thought the ladies' teams were more intense than the men's

Nancy O'Henry says she started playing the game five years ago as a beginner at Central Tennis and Fitness. Today, she is an advanced player at Shadow Valley, where she found a challenge more to her liking.

“Competitive tennis is big in Toledo “ remarked Pat Birney, pro and club owner. Those more competitive players often join the United States Tennis Association Adult League, the new name of the Toledo Area Interclub League. “There are easily more than 3,000 USTA members in the Toledo area who participate in the summer TAIL programs.”

Some players, like 30-year tennis veteran John Bloomfield, keep busy on the courts winters only, saving summers for golf. Partners can find him winter weeks at Central Tennis and Fitness.

Others may be competitive but haven't forgotten how to play at many levels.

Ms. O'Henry says, “I have just as much fun playing with a 2.5 (entry) level tennis friend as a 4.0 (advanced) level friend.” Virginia and David Kirchmaier agree. They and their children play at Laurel Hills, where they also have made many friends.

“It's a great family club. Tennis is something the kids can always play no matter where they are - it's a good social in and you can get as good as you want and as competitive as you want,” says Mrs. Kirchmaier. She and her husband have traveled the area with TAIL teams.

Each of the six area tennis clubs has its unique attractions:

  • Central Tennis and Fitness, formerly Toledo Racquet Club) 5400 West Central Ave., was established in 1964, the first indoor tennis club in the area. Prior to that wood-floored tennis courts were at the University of Toledo's Reserve Officer Training Corps Armory. Central Tennis is currently owned by Bruce DeBoer and Barry Greenblatt. The facility has 4 indoor tennis courts and offers children and adult lessons and clinics..

    Many of the 800 members take advantage of the club's fitness facility that includes golf training, an indoor track, aerobic and weight training equipment, aerobics rooms and classes, a basketball court, and locker rooms. Babysitting services and children's activities are offered. The club is open 7 days a week and is only closed on Christmas Day. Memberships are $30-$140 per month.

  • Laurel Hill Swim and Tennis Club, 2222 Cass Rd. Established in 1965, currently owned by pro Pat Birney, in 1970 it became the first tennis club in Toledo to offer both indoor and outdoor courts. Its 900 members enjoy this family-focused facility with an Olympic-size outdoor pool and activities for adults, children, and families.

    There are 7 indoor courts and 11 outdoor courts including 3 soft courts. A small homey fitness room is available but is not the club's focus.

    Laurel Hill also has two racquetball courts as walleyball and handball. And for winter platform tennis, the club has reciprocal membership with Carranor Hunt and Polo Club in Perrysburg. Like most of the clubs, there is a pro shop that offers higher-end tennis equipment and attire that may not be found in department and sporting goods stores.

    Laurel Hill, like all the clubs, offers a variety of membership categories, but the basic ones range from $44-$106. The club is closed on Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter, New Year's Day, and sometimes on July 4, otherwise, members are there smashing away.

  • Shadow Valley, at 1661 South Holland-Sylvania Rd., owned by managing partners Jim Davis, John Mermer, and Carol Wiemer, along with several silent partners was established in 1975. It has 20 courts including eight indoor and 12 soft quick-dry outdoor courts. In addition, the club has an outdoor pool set amid trees with an attached bathhouse and snack bar; a two level fitness center with personal trainers and classes; a full service bar and restaurant with limited hours, and a pro shop.

    There are approximately 1,000 members and memberships range from $23-$95 per month. The club is open seven days a week and only closed on Christmas.

  • Westowne Tennis Club, 2850 Republic Blvd., established in 1974, is owned by Mark Willingham. There are 6 indoor courts and 11 outdoor courts including 8 soft, fast drying courts. There is also an outdoor pool with bathhouse. While it has no fitness center, members have reciprocal membership with Courts of Sylvania, which has a deluxe fitness area. It's 800 members can also take advantage of the outdoor hard courts that are open for play all year--you never know when you might get a lucky day and the sun is shining, according to Mr. Willingham. The club is open 7 days a week and only closed on Christmas, has the same membership prices as it's sister club, Courts of Sylvania ranging from $20-$82/month.

  • Courts of Sylvania, 5340 Centennial Rd., established in 1975, is also owned by Mark Willingham. It has 5 indoor and 10 outdoor hard courts, a swimming pool and snack bar with beer and liquor service available. There is a 7,000 square-foot fitness facility, babysitting services, all kinds of programs, and a small pro shop. Their 600 members pay from $20-$82/month, but the added benefit is they have reciprocity with sister club Westowne. The club is also open 7 days a week and only closed on Christmas.

  • Toledo Tennis Club, Talmadge and Indian roads, is the granddad of them all. Organized in 1901, it is one of the oldest tennis clubs in the United States and will soon be celebrating its centennial.

    Tennis started in 14th century England, but rules and specifications were not defined in this country until the United States Lawn Tennis Association was founded in 1881. It was not until 1885 that the Outing Club at Monroe and West Bancroft streets, (now St. Martin de Porres Catholic Church?) rolled with excitement. The coed athletic facility included in addition to tennis, baseball, croquet, and cricket, and in 1889, the Outing Club hosted the Ohio State Tennis Tournament.

    The club moved to the site of the old University Club in 1901 on the University of Toledo campus, and was reorganized as the Toledo Tennis Club: It wasn't until 1914 that juniors and ladies appeared as members. In 1928 it was moved to the present location in Ottawa Hills..

    Today's club boasts 10 soft and 5 hard outdoor courts. It opens the first Saturday in May, but frequently is unofficially open before then. The last weekend in September is the official closing, but again, until the nets are taken down, people play. Winters, members have reciprocity at Laurel Hills and Central Tennis.

    Member Maudette Devenow said, “Toledo Tennis Club is a great club with all levels of players and very friendly. They are also very helpful and encourage people of all levels to come and play ... it is as competitive as you wish to make it.”



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