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Tennis for charity, anyone?

The Sheriff Jim Coats Clearwater Women's Open benefits the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Suncoast with the help of pros.

By LORRI HELFAND
Published January 19, 2005


CLEARWATER - Sheriff Jim Coats understands why folks might be confused about the Sheriff Jim Coats Clearwater Women's Open.

After all, he said, "I'm not a tennis player, and I'm not female."

But there's a good reason the pro circuit tournament bears his name.

The tournament will benefit the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Suncoast, and Coats has been a member of the organization's board of directors for about 15 years.

"I'm happy to do anything I can for the Boys & Girls Clubs," said Coats, who was elected to his current office in November and has served the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office since 1971.

Larry Gilhousen, director of resource development of the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Suncoast, said the organization asked Coats to be the event's honorary chairman because of his longtime support and local prominence.

"It's a great honor for him and would bring even more credibility to the event," Gilhousen said.

Gilhousen said the Boys & Girls Clubs hopes to raise about $14,000 from sponsorships, advertisers and entry fees.

The Boys & Girls Clubs is partnering with the St. Petersburg-Clearwater Area Convention & Visitors Bureau and the city of Clearwater, which is hosting the event at its Henry L. McMullen Tennis Complex.

The open also will feature free public programs Welcome to Tennis and Festival de Tennis, a community celebration of diversity.

Welcome to Tennis will offer activities for people of all ages and skill levels, including people with disabilities. The family celebration will feature games, prizes, skill stations with tennis pros, drills for intermediate and advanced players, cardio-fitness activities, specialized tennis skills for people with disabilities and wheelchair tennis demonstrations.

The Festival de Tennis will offer a live broadcast from LA LEY Spanish radio WLCC-AM 760, tennis clinics for all ages, games with prizes, music, entertainment and face painting.

Refreshments will be available at both events.

Mike Lockwood, athletic coordinator for the city, said the tennis tournament and corresponding activities will give more locals exposure to the sport.

"It's another opportunity to reach out to individuals, to those who don't necessarily have an opportunity to play tennis," he said.

Alex Vely, tennis director for the women's open and a tennis pro at the McMullen complex, said the event provides a jump start for up and coming players and pros that want to improve their rankings.

The tournament, which will offer a total of $10,000 in prize money, is a USTA Pro Circuit Event.

This is the sixth year the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Suncoast have held tennis tournaments to raise funds for the organization, but it's the first time the organization has partnered with the women's professional circuit, Gilhousen said.

"We hope this is the beginning of a very nice partnership that will continue for many years," Gilhousen said.

IF YOU GO

The Jim Coats Clearwater Women's Open will be held today through Jan. 30 at Henry L. McMullen Tennis complex, 1000 Edenville Ave. Matches will take place most days from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Spectators watch free except for Jan. 29 and 30, when admission is $5 per person.

Welcome to Tennis, for Families of All Abilities, will be held from 1 to 4 p.m Saturday at the McMullen complex. Festival de Tennis, Community Celebration of Diversity, will run from 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday at Morningside Recreation Complex, 2400 Harn Boulevard Clearwater. For information about prequalifying tennis events, call Alex Vely at 669-1919. For information about public activities, call Larry Gilhousen at 546-1032, ext. 17, or Mike Lockwood, 793-2320.

[Last modified January 19, 2005, 00:33:17]


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