Sandy Harris handed out T-shirts to his Odell Weeks team at Thursday night's practice. It was his first chance to reward his club for a crowning achievement.
Tennis wasn't much of a sport in Aiken about 25 years ago. Now two teams are representing Aiken on the national scene.
"I've seen tennis come and go," said Harris, captain of his 50-and-older team. "But I think it's quite organized now, and the leagues keep growing."
The Odell Weeks team, along with an all-ages Woodside squad, compete in the 2004 USA League Tennis presented by Lincoln Southern Sectional Championship today in Columbia.
Organizers are calling it "the world's largest tennis tournament" with over 2,000 participants from nine states.
Two round-robin groups of five will play each other the next three days. The winners of the pool play will match up in the finals Tuesday. The champions will advance to the national tournament later this year in Tucson, Ariz.
"I feel pretty good," Harris said. "We're a pretty even team. It just depends on who you're playing and how you match up."
The Woodside team includes captain Gerald Faulk, Joe Barnes, Doug Boessneck, Dutch Conrad, David Cruse, Robert Glance, Mark Hancock, Paul Hendrix, Bill Nagy, Stephen Platte, Richard Preston and David Snyder.
The Odell Weeks team is composed of captain Harris, Chuck Hayatt, Mike Chon, Steve Clayton, Cruse, Donnie Campbell, John Longo and Pete West.
"For Aiken to have two teams going to sectionals," Cruse said, "is pretty good news."
Both teams are playing in the Men's 4.0 division. The 5.0 division is the top amateur rank; Cruse compared the 4.0 division tennis players to golfers with a 4-handicap.
Reach Chris Gay at (706) 823-3645 or firstname.lastname@example.org.