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Courier's victory thrills Dade City

Jean Larkin just couldn't help herself. After watching Dade City neighbor Jim Courier win the French Open on Sunday, Larkin drew up a few congratulatory signs and stuck them in the front yard of Courier's parents, then hung a 20-foot banner on their fence.

"You made us proud. We love Jimbo," the signs read.

"As I was putting them up, people were driving by giving me the thumbs-up signal," Larkin said.

Larkin's gesture was just one of several celebratory acts around here Sunday in honor of Courier, who is arguably the rural city's most internationally known resident. The answering machine at the Courier home _ father Jim spent the day in Palm Coast while mother Linda visited relatives in North Carolina _ was loaded with messages, Jim Sr. said late Sunday. Several neighbors also stopped by to offer their congratulations.

In the meantime, city officials were mulling over ideas to further honor Courier when he returns home. There's talk of possibly a parade, a party and/or a proclamation from the city. There might even be a Jim Courier Day established, according to Glenn Weaver, husband of Dade City mayor Pat Weaver, who was out of town Sunday on business.

"It's not every town that has someone to win the French Open," Glenn Weaver said. "We had been planning to do something to honor him anyway. And now that he won the French Open, it'll just be an even bigger celebration."

Courier is expected to return home sometime today, his father said. However, the city's celebration plans likely will take place later. Courier plans to be in town only a short while before leaving for the ATP Tour headquarters in Ponte Vedra, where he'll begin preparing for Wimbledon, which starts in two weeks.

Even still, Courier apparently won't be looked at the same by his neighbors after Sunday.

One resident, Pasco High baseball coach Lenny Cimador, said Courier's French Open feat is the biggest thing to happen to the city since 1989 when Gene Nelson, a Dade City resident and Oakland A's player, pitched in the World Series. Other residents and city officials said it puts Courier's name right up there with the singing group The Bellamy Brothers and Nelson as the city's most well-known residents.

"It's just a proud day for Dade City. We're just tickled to death," said Larkin, a school board member who lives a block away from the Couriers. "Jimbo is such an outstanding representative for the city and an excellent role model for the kids."

No one, of course, was more proud of Courier's victory than Jim Sr., who watched the match with a close friend in Palm Coast.

"Sure, I was nervous," he said. "But I was more nervous in the first and second rounds. Once he got to where his seeding says he should be, then you kind of relax."

Added Larkin, sounding as if Courier were her own son: "I can't emphasize how hard he has worked to obtain this. I've known him since he was 3 years old and I watched him put in the hours and the years, and I watched his parents feed him balls. He put in a lot of work and gave up a lot of things for this. So, he deserves the recognition he's getting."

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