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By NANCY MORGAN
© St. Petersburg Times, published November 8, 2000
Thirty-seven years ago, Hazel Cook was looking for tennis partners at the St. Petersburg Tennis Center.
That's how the Racquettes began in 1962 and why the club continues today.
What Cook started evolved into preset playing times for women so they would have an opportunity to meet others.
Cook, who will be 85 in December, no longer plays with the group but enjoys watching the players and frequently joins them at their monthly Friday luncheon.
"Back then, there weren't many women playing tennis and the center didn't really cater to those that did," Cook said.
"I got a bunch of names -- about 35 -- and sent them cards about a meeting," she said. "That's how it all started."
Women continue to show interest in the Racquettes club, which has reserved court times every Friday morning for round-robin action. The first Friday of each month, the round robin is followed by a luncheon.
Some Racquettes members volunteer for activities at the center.
"What we're really looking for now are some new -- and younger -- players," said Dorothy Burgess, the Racquettes' second-year president.
"We have between 65 to 70 members and, of course, they don't all play all the time."
Skill levels range from beginner to 3.5 or 4.0, said Burgess, and the age of players averages between 60 to 70, although there are some in their 50s.
What the Racquettes need, said Burgess, are younger players to blend with the older ones.
"We have a lot of fun and would really like to extend an invitation to other women," Burgess said. "In spite of our ages, the competition is really pretty high."
The group's other officers are Sue Donaldson, vice-president; Julie Solomon, secretary; June Young, treasurer; Paula Jollis and Chris Laken, co-historians; Lucille Springs, tournament chairman; and Sunshine ladies Jeanette Axt and Sally Holley.
"I joined the group in 1978 and am still playing," said Kathy Warner, 80.
"The competition is actually pretty good, especially in the round robins," she said. "We just need some younger girls to join us."
After last week's monthly luncheon, the Racquettes agreed to extend an invitation for free play to any visitor who comes to the center Nov. 17 for round robin play, which begins at 8:45 a.m.
After meeting, playing and socializing, the Racquettes hope the newcomers will want to join.
It costs $10 a year to belong to the Racquettes. You don't have to be a center member to join. Instead, a player can just pay the $6 court fee on days the Racquettes meet to play.
For more information, call the center (893-7301).
MILLS/REDGRAVE CHALLENGE: After last weekend's round robin singles and mixed doubles in divisions for players 18-and-under, 16 and 14, Florida fell to the USTA Southern Section in the Mills/Redgrave Challenge at Bardmoor Golf and Tennis Club.
Area players Kelly Nelson, 16, won two singles and two doubles matches; Bugsy Bauer, 14, a singles and three doubles; Alexandria Liles, 18, a singles and two doubles; R.J. Murray, 18, one singles; and Sukhwa Young, 16, two doubles.
CHARITY TOURNEY WINNERS: Two area mixed doubles teams outplayed competition in their respective divisions of the Eighth Annual Pasco County Medical Society Alliance Tennis Classic at Paul Kronk Tennis Club in Crescent Oaks last weekend.
Rhonda Thompson and John Beda survived a three-set match to reach the 4.0 mixed doubles final with Rosie Pappas and William Thomas.
Rebounding from a second-set loss, Thompson and Beda went on to win 6-3, 2-6, 6-1.
Cindy and Buzz Cooper survived a second-set loss in the 3.5 mixed doubles final with Cheryl Cravener and Ed McGinley to win 6-4, 2-6, 6-1.
JUNIOR RESULTS: Lindsay Dvorak of St. Petersburg captured the only singles title for area players in last month's West Coast Junior Classic at McMullen Tennis Complex.
Dvorak won the trophy for players 10 in straight sets.
Brandon Pierpont was a consolation finalist in the division for 16-year-old boys.
MEN'S 60-PLUS LEAGUE: The Fall 60-and-Over Doubles League began last month for nine teams of men.
Participating are squads from Renaissance Vinoy, Dolphin Cay, Seminole Lake, Bardmoor, Treasure Island Recreation and Royal Racquet Club. Shipwatch Tennis Club has two teams.
Vince Trapano, tennis professional at Royal, is the league coordinator and may be reached at 799-3200.
COMING UP: National Tennis Rating Program evaluations are scheduled for 7 p.m. Nov. 14 at the Racquet Club (527-6553) and Nov. 29 at the St. Petersburg Country Club (867-9105). There's a $10 fee per person. ... TI Tennis offers youth instruction daily for all levels. Call 360-6062. ... Rising Stars Tennis is at the Tournament Players Academy based at the Racquet Club for youths 6-12. Call 527-6533.