■ BY SUE ERWIN
Area athletes interested in competitive tennis are encouraged to sign up now for the annual Gasparilla Island Tennis Classic 2017.
The event will begin the week of January 28 and will culminate on February 11. The tournament is open to all area residents and members and guests of the following clubs: Boca Bay Pass Club, Gasparilla Inn Tennis Club and Boca Grande Club.
The games will take place at all three clubs.The tournament will feature men’s and ladies singles, mixed doubles and 70+ mixed doubles. Jinx Howe, tennis director at Gasparilla Inn Tennis Club, has been participating in the tournaments since they began in 1998. “It’s fun to have members from all the clubs come and play together,” Howe said. The games are structured as double elimination draws, so players will get to participate at least twice for each event they’ve signed up for. Howe said she strongly encourages people to register at the club they are affiliated with, so that the event can be smoothly coordinated. Boca Grande Club Tennis Director Jen Fiers is not participating in organizing the event this year, since she just recently had a baby. Fiers has participated in the tennis classic for the past three years. “It’s unique, because it is the only tournament on the island all year that invites all players in the area to play. We welcome skill levels from all ranks but it mostly attracts players in the 3.5 to 4.5 range,” Fiers said. H Wetzel, tennis director at Boca Bay Pass Club, said it’s a great event, because it lets players on the island get together and play against people they might not have had the chance to compete with or meet before. “And it’s not a cut-throat competition. It’s an event for people to meet other tennis players and get involved with them and improve their game. People who are aspiring to be a little bit better are welcome to participate,” Wetzel said. The event is sponsored by Boca Beacon publications. Boca Beacon Publisher Dusty Hopkins said participants and their spouses or a guest are invited to an exhibition, tennis event and cocktail party from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 27. Tennis attire is suggested, because there will be triple tennis challenges at the Boca Bay Pass Club. The entry fee is $30 and includes a tournament hat. All ages and all levels of play are invited to take part in the tournament. Pick up an application at any of the participating clubs or at the Boca Beacon office at 431 Park Avenue. For more information, contact any of the clubs.