WHEELING - A summer of tennis tournament action at the Oglebay Tennis Center begins Thursday morning when the first serve of the Jack Dorsey Memorial Senior Open is made.
Competitors will take to the site's 10 Har-Tru courts starting at 9 a.m. for the United States Tennis Association Category 2 event. Action continues through Sunday.
''We're expecting between 120 and 150 players from 18 different states,'' said Mark Panepinto, who is directing the tournament along with Bill Blair. Blair will take over as sole director next year.
''It's a top-level national event.''
Panepinto is one of a handful of local men entered and has been quite successful in the Age 45 bracket the past few years.
''We'll have about 20 local players taking part,'' he said.
That number could rise as Doubles entries will be accepted until noon Thursday. Doubles action begins Friday. Those wishing to enter Doubles can contact Panepinto at (304) 215-7003 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The event is named after Dorsey, who died in 2010. An ardent supporter of tennis in Wheeling, West Virginia and beyond, Dorsey was the one who wanted to make the senior event a Category 2, according to Panepinto.
''Unlike the (West Virginia) Open, which has mostly club players, most of the people that come in for the Senior Open are a higher level of competition ... mainly the people in the national rankings in their respective age groups,'' Panepinto explained.
''Players apply for different point rankings and the higher the category the higher the points.''
Categories start at age 35 and go up into the 90s. Panepinto said the oldest competitor registered will be 88 this summer.
''Most of the people coming in have Top-25 rankings nationally in their age groups,'' Panepinto said. ''They are really solid players.''
And they've all taken a big liking to the Oglebay facilities.
''It's a nice collection of courts,'' Panepinto said, noting the three main courts where the semifinals and finals take place.
He added eight of the center's courts will be used for matches, with the other two utilized for practice.
''I think it's a combination (of great courts, swimming pool, etc.) and the fact it's in the middle of a resort,'' Panepinto said of the center's popularity. ''A lot of players will bring their families in and make a weekend out of it.''
With all of the people flooding the tennis center this week, and with Panepinto a participant, the co-director said members of Wheeling-Oglebay Tennis Club will be instrumental in making sure things run smoothly.
''There's a whole collection of volunteers with the tennis club,'' Panepinto said. ''We get upwards of 20 volunteers that make our job as co-directors go a lot easier.
''We're really thankful for them and (the tournament) couldn't run as smoothly as it has without them.''