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:
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.
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.
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.
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.”