Friends, Fellowship, Tennis

WHEELING – Anybody over the age of 45 will likely recall the tennis boom of the late 1970s, when guys like Jimmy Connors, John McEnroe and Ivan Lendl ruled the courts.

By the looks of it, Oglebay Park is restoring the boom.

At least on Monday nights.

That is just the way Oglebay Director of Tennis Marc White likes it.

Tennis is definitely his racket.

The Monday Men’s Tennis League is in full swing. The eyes of the tennis world may be on New York, with the start of the U.S. Open, but there is little doubt local eyes are dialed in directly on the Oglebay Park Tennis Center.

Once again the guys got together Monday, a diverse and dedicated group of tennis players, where talent is not paramount, but camaraderie is.

“It’s a diverse level of players and personalities from all walks of life,” local attorney Greg McDermott said. “The one thing we all have in common is we love tennis.”

McDermott certainly does.

Other than White, he is the one person who has been attending the Monday gathering for its nine years of existence.

You want diverse?

Moe Patel is a member of the natural gas pipeliners who are in town on work.

Brett Szeligo was a tennis player at Wheeling Central who qualified for the state tournament as a doubles player and now attends Wheeling Jesuit.

Andy George is from London – yes, he has attended Wimbledon as well as last summer’s Olympic Games – and is in town visiting family.

All come together for different reasons, the common denominator being a love of the game.

“I just recently picked up the game,” Patel said. “It’s a great way to meet people and play the game, especially when you are from out of town. The camaraderie here is great. A lot of us have started meeting away from here. It’s just a great time.”

“I started coming when I was in high school,” Szeligo said. “I love to play, and I’d like to keep playing if Wheeling Jesuit ever starts a tennis program.”

“The facility is great, and the people are great,” said George, sporting a Pittsburgh Pirates cap. “You don’t often find tennis courts like this, where you can come, get a lesson and meet a lot of different people. I figured since I was on holiday, this would be a great way to spend some time.”

White is quick to point out that the group is divided up using a “professional game matching” system, meaning players are put together based on level of play. For White, a member of the United States Professional Tennis Association and a certified PTR teaching professional, it is the best way to get the most out of each player.

Player take part in four rounds and White is a constant eye, giving lessons throughout the two hours of play.

“They are actually playing,” White said. “As they are playing, I can watch them and make comments on how they can improve their game. It’s a program where they can play and they get a lesson from a professional. It’s a system that works. It’s the way I teach. The real beauty is that it’s a group of different folks from all walks of life, who all have different styles of play. They meet different people, meet new friends and they love the game. The camaraderie here is outstanding. That is the main thing we stress, fun and friendship.”

You only need ask the participants.

“I played when I was a lot younger but when my kids got into the game I decided I would pick the game up again,” said McDermott, who was playing doubles with his daughter, Lindsay, a member of the Linsly tennis team, as a partner. “It’s a great way to stay in touch with what they are doing and share the sport.”

White ups the ante by having a theme each week, whether it’s a teaching tip, which he does every week, or something that’s going on in the game. For instance, Monday was, understandably, U.S. Open Night.

Every week a “Shot of the Day” recipient receives a prize.

Monday isn’t the only day when things are happening at the Oglebay Tennis Center.

White also has the Saturday Superstars, with a 10-under group at 11 a.m. followed by a middle school/high school group.

White said anyone in the community is welcomed to attend, for the minimal fee of $15 per day.