By Gregg Bragg, The Island Connection Staff Writer
Photos by Mary Beth Joyce
Seabrook Racquet Club professional Mike Kiser drew the honor of introducing the 34th Alan Fleming Senior Open Clay Court State Championships. The tournament for ages 35-80 (grouped in five year increments) was held Oct. 4 – 8.
He addressed a meeting of tournament participants saying, “We have 223 players from 16 states [50-60 of which are from either Kiawah or Seabrook]. There are 127 men, and our women’s draw is very strong with almost 100 players turning out. This is our fourth year hosting the Mixed Doubles National Gold Ball events and the competition in all of our draws is stronger than ever. We have national Gold Ball champions, members of US national teams, world champions, former Davis Cup Players, and former professional tour players, including a Wimbledon Men’s 35 Doubles Champion [T. J. Middleton].”
Asked if he was going to win this year’s Fleming, Middleton grinned and said, “I sure hope so. You know, Peter Fleming [son of tournament founder Alan Fleming] was the announcer for one of my Wimbledon appearances. He insisted I wasn’t as tall as I said I was while calling the match.” The two have been friends ever since. Their reunion during this year’s Fleming was graced by good weather.
The 2016 iteration was plagued by hurricane related delays. Weather in the run-up to the rescheduled 2016 event was idyllic, but the final day was an assault on bare skin with temperatures in the 40s accompanied by drizzly rain. The pendulum swung the other direction this year, with temps in the 90s, along with heavy doses of coastal humidity, but without last year’s delays. Enthusiasm ran high with locals making standout showings. According to Sally Kimball, Director of Communications for the Fleming, Seabrook residents leveraged their home court advantage claiming four titles; Harvey Hines-Men’s 55’s Singles, Andrea Hines-Women’s 45’s Singles, Maureen O’Berg-Women’s 65’s Singles, and Rick McDaniel-Men’s 80’s Doubles. They weren’t the only winners last weekend. Seabrook contributed $41,000 in proceeds to Respite Care of Charleston.
RCoC is dedicated to improving the lives of those coping with Alzheimer’s disease. Their menu of care includes social day programs, early stage Alzheimer’s disease support groups and caregiver support groups for all affected by memory disorders. RCoC services are available on Johns Island, James Island and West Ashley and details are available by visiting RespiteCareCharleston.org or calling 843.647.7405. The contribution comes from the generosity led by the Town of Seabrook Island and supplemented by the entire Seabrook community.
Seabrook residents take a lot of pride in the Fleming, and contribute to the tournament in the form of sponsorships similar to the town. The Town’s “Presenter” level status is followed by “Diamond” level contributions from Coastal Getaways of South Carolina, the Seabrook Island Club and Seabrook Island Real Estate. Rounding out the list are no less than 29 more business and individual contributors, along with player entry fees.
Fundraising held in conjunction with the tournament, and any sponsorship money remaining after tournament expenses goes to RCoC. Residents attended tournament events whenever possible for another reason.
This year the Fleming Committee honored the late Tom Kent. He was a tennis aficionado and Seabrook resident, who played a vital role in creating the tournament, and supporting it since its inception in 1981. Alan Fleming was the first property owner chair and for the next 8 years he and Kent were co-chairs of the tournament. Over the next decade, Kent was either chair or co-chair of the tournament and avidly promoted it to national prominence.
Kent’s memories and humor were featured in the tournaments’ Saturday night dinner extravaganza. Excerpts from a history of the tournament Kent wrote include such observations as; “I am pretty sure the first tournament was played in October 1981, and the events were just for the 45, 55, and 65 age groups.
The event was all played on the 7 courts adjacent to the old Island House down by the ocean. The current center had not as yet been built. Alan Fleming was the first property owner tournament chair and every subsequent year through ’89 he and I were co-chairs. However, since I was already in my 50’s (and had lost the first year to a highly ranked youngster of 47), we made it 5-year intervals starting the next year. In about ’87, or possibly ’88, we added a 70 category, in part because Alan was approaching that status. Later, as Chairman, I added the 75 age group at least two years before Alan hit that bracket and several years later as a co-chair, I think with Stu Miller, we added the men’s 80s since Alan was heading in that direction.”
More information on the Fleming is available by visiting Discoverseabrook.com/alan-fleming-tournament.php or by calling the clubhouse 843.768.7543. You can even start planning to participate in 2018’s Alan Fleming Senior Open Clay Court State Championships. Complete, official results have been posted to tennislink.usta.com.