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Keller overcomes biggest challenge of her life


© St. Petersburg Times, published March 7, 2001

Things are getting back to normal for Jackie Keller and Treasure Island Tennis and Yacht Club.

Keller, the club's tennis director, and its members couldn't be more relieved.

For Keller, it was a matter of health. For the club, it was stability in teaching professionals.

Last summer, Keller made an appointment with her doctor to see about a painful knee. During the visit, she was reminded of her lateness in having a mammogram.

When Keller followed up on her physician's suggestion, her life dramatically changed. Her knee mysteriously stopped hurting while she dealt with breast cancer.

"It was really strange," said Keller, a former physical education teacher from Pittsburgh. "I had just played in the American Cancer Society charity tournament at the club while I was waiting to hear the results."

Up to this past year, Keller had had regular exams, but had been remiss in recent times.

"My best advice is to not hesitate, don't miss appointments and if something doesn't feel right, go to the doctor," she said. "Only because my knee hurt did I go then. I won't miss an appointment ever again," Keller said.

Keller underwent a mastectomy June 13 and had chemotherapy and radiation up to Jan. 15. Her sick leave from the club was from mid-August to mid-October, when Keller returned on a part-time basis.

"The tennis community was so supportive, including the girls I was playing with at Royal Racquet Club on the senior 4.5 team," Keller said.

"The club was extremely supportive. My goal was to get well and get back to a regular routine."

Keller's return to her role as director and pro shop manager came at a perfect time with the unplanned losses of a couple of teaching professionals.

Recently, Randy Dudley of Seminole, who had worked with the late Harry Hopman in a camp and spent the last 19 years teaching in Germany, assumed the teaching post.

"We're excited about Randy being here," said club member Tom Grayson. "He's only been here a short time, and he's doing great. He's got a full schedule and has started a junior group several times a week.

"The club feels so strongly about Jackie," Grayson said. "We're so glad she's back, running the programs, teaching a little and coordinating with Randy."

Last weekend, the Treasure Island club played host to the state-sanctioned Super Seniors 2001 competition for men. Al Sarmiento directed the tournament, and Keller observed a lot of the matches.

"Competition was really high quality," Keller said.

"Al has an outstanding reputation for doing a great job with tournaments, and it was good he was asked to run this. At the time, we weren't certain of my health."

Among the competitors in the super senior event was Grayson, in the men's 55-and-older singles division.

Grayson was scheduled to play Clearwater's Bill Christensen in the final Monday, but the match was rescheduled for this evening at the Treasure Island club.

Doubles winners were area players Ed Hamilton and Jim Mackey, in the division for 60-year-olds, and Hernan Molina with California's Dick Crawford in the 65 class.

Reaching the final round of action was singles player Bob Meyerdierks (70) and the doubles teams of Doug Godinho and Wendall Walker (60), Meyerdierks and Mackey (70) and Bob Allen and Andy Chau (75).

In consolation action, Leo Poulin was a finalist in 65 singles, as was Bud Steckman in the competition for 75-year-olds.

SUPER SENIORS: Defending state champions from St. Petersburg Tennis Center fell short of a return trip when Innisbrook handed them a 3-0 loss.

In the men's 3.5 playoff match last week in St. Petersburg, Nick Karamessinis and Woody Woodbury dropped a 6-4, 6-2 decision at No. 1, Moyses Figuerodo and captain Fred DeJohn battled to a 7-6 (4), 6-1 loss at No. 2 and Bob Allen and Andy Chau were defeated 6-0, 6-1.

With the win, Innisbrook advances to the USTA Florida Section State Championships in June in the Naples area.

MIXED DOUBLES: The final 7.5 match between the Racquet Club of St. Petersburg and Bardmoor Golf and Tennis Club was rescheduled from last Sunday for 2 p.m. March 18 at the Racquet Club. Inclement weather had postponed the competition.

The winner claims the district title and will represent the area in the USTA Florida Section Mixed Doubles State Championships in April in the Palm Coast area.

SOUTH PINELLAS LEADERS: Defending ladies doubles champion Feather Sound Country Club is tied with Treasure Island Recreation Center as they battle this morning at Feather Sound.

Both teams have lost just one position among a total of 12 and are tied with 11 points each.

The league concludes with matches on March 14.

COMING UP: National Tennis Rating Program evaluations are scheduled for 7 p.m. March 13 at Clearwater's McMullen Tennis Complex (669-1919), March 23 at the Bardmoor Golf and Tennis Club (391-2205) and March 30 at Countryside Country Club (796-1136). There is a $10 fee.

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