BY JAMES LABINSKI - Island tennis enthusiasts will welcome four new players to the Boca Grande Club next month when the Professional Tennis Exhibition Series embarks on its fourteenth season. In week one of the competition on Wednesday, Feb. 1 at 4 p.m., David Siddons brings his game on island for all to see.
Siddons is the director of tennis at the Plantation Golf and Country Club in Venice. Siddons was a Southern Conference standout at Appalachian State University. Siddons directed several clubs in North Carolina and coached at his alma mater before settling in at the Plantation a few years ago.
“I’m looking forward to the challenge and I hope I can represent the Plantation well,” Siddons said.
All too eager to show him the ropes are Joe Venezia, the former Auburn University stud from the Landings Racket Club in Sarasota; and Nate Griffin, the perennial finalist from the River Strand Golf and Country Club in Bradenton.
Abdul Idi, Griffin’s head pro at River Strand, makes his series debut on February 8. Idi grew up in Nigeria and competed in international junior events in northern and western Africa. He played his collegiate tennis at Livingstone College in North Carolina.
Griffin’s tales of exciting tennis and appreciative crowds makes Idi very enthusiastic about playing at the Boca Grande Club. Last year’s runner-up in the event, Jared Kalpin from the Landings Club in Fort Myers, is also in the second week preliminary match.
Idi worked extensively in Minnesota for about 13 years before coming to southwest Florida. In fact, Jack Johnson, the announcer at the matches, was Idi’s boss, while he was owner of the Nicollet Tennis Center in Minneapolis back in 2000.
Jorge Magalhaes will be fighting for his job when he goes up against his summertime boss, Scott Harrington, in week three of the competition. Harrington, a four-time winner at the Boca Grande Club, directs the tennis program at the Siasconset Casino Association Tennis Club in Nantucket, when he isn’t cranking out lessons at the Landings in Fort Myers during the winter. Magalhaes is currently the pro at the Lighthouse Bay at the Brooks in Bonita Springs. He was born in Portugal.
In the final preliminary round, Shawn Hedrick, the big hitting tennis director from The Strand in Naples, will be introduced to Steve Ethier, the defending champion from the Boca Bay Pass Club. Hedrick is a Fort Myers native who competed at a very high level as a Florida junior, before becoming a standout doubles player at David Lipscomb University in Nashville Tennessee. Still an active competitor in U.S. Professional Tennis Association events, Hedrick said, “I’ve heard a lot about the Boca series, and I’m looking forward to playing in this prestigious event.”
According to the series format, each week four teaching pros will play three sets, rotating partners each set. The top two players in terms of games won, will advance to the next round. The tournament culminates with the finals on March 14. An optional donation of five bucks for the tennis goes to the Suncoast Humane Society.
The series kicks off with the Tennis Ball and Silent Auction on January 25 at 6 pm at the Clubhouse Restaurant of the Boca Grande Club. Tickets are $100 with at least sixty percent of that going directly to Suncoast. For more information on Silent Auction items and other features of the Tennis Ball, call the club at 964-2211.
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