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Seniors converge on Pinellas in bid for state titles

Action begins today for 52 teams from across the state in the USTA Florida Section Super Senior Doubles League state championships for players at least 60 years of age.

Friday, another 82 teams will begin competition in the Senior Doubles League state tournament for players at least 50 years old.

Tournament sites are Countryside Country Club, Royal Racquet Club and the St. Petersburg Tennis Center.

Twenty-five Super Senior women's teams in three skill levels, and 27 men's teams in four levels will compete through Saturday for the seven state titles. Forty-one Senior women's teams in four skill levels and 41 men's in four will play through Monday.

A dozen area teams are vying for five of the Super Senior titles and seven of the Senior titles.

"We're bringing eight players to the tournament and feel we have a pretty good chance," said Gene Biittner, captain of Shipwatch Tennis Club's 4.0 Super Senior men's team. "They've all played at the sectional level before, and that experience is always helpful."

Shipwatch is in a three-team flight and will play a double round-robin format beginning at noon today at the St. Petersburg Tennis Center. There are 11 teams in the 4.0 Super Senior division.

Scheduled to play for Shipwatch are Al Blackburn, Harry Erbe, Doug Godinho, Charlie Brusovich, Alan Smith, John Finlayson, Leon Hibbs and George Tochterman.

"Our doubles teams are all fairly equal and no one really dominates the other," said Biittner, who is unable to compete due to an injury. "What we have been practicing is the third-set tiebreaker. We don't really like it, but we've gotten used to it."

A St. Petersburg Tennis Center men's team is among 12 in the Super Senior 3.5 competition and begins play at 8 a.m. today at Royal Racquet Club against a team from Ormond Beach.

Other area teams in the Super Senior tournament are from Timber Pines Tennis Club, which won local competition in the women's 3.0 and 3.5 divisions and men's 3.0.

In Senior action, Innisbrook qualified its women's and men's teams in the 3.5 division; Feather Sound Country Club (3.0), Treasure Island Tennis and Yacht Club (4.0) and Royal Racquet Club (4.5) qualified in the women's competition, and McMullen of Clearwater (4.0) and Safety Harbor Spa (4.5) reached the men's state event.

"We were at state two years ago and finished third in the seniors," said Pearl Schultz, co-captain of the Feather Sound team with Martha Byrne. "Last year in the adult league state tournament we lost by just one game, so we hope to push forward this year in the 50-and-over."

Joining Schultz and Byrne on the team are Barbara Sealund, Charlotte Wheeler, Carol Georges, Phyllis Fellows, Maureen Barnum, Andree Etman, Ellie Kennedy, Marcy Mizell, Alice Rogers and Roz Hicks. They open play Friday at the St. Petersburg Tennis Center.

Royal Racquet Club's 4.5 Senior women's team opens competition Friday morning at Countryside against a team from Jacksonville.

"Most of us have been together as a team about six years," said captain Connie Smith. "We lost a couple of good players from last year but have added a couple of really good ones, too. We believe it's our turn to win."

Joining Smith will be Barbara Brutus, Hank Skoczen, Patty Brannon and newcomers Jackie Keller, Heather Nicoll and Sandra Ellison.

Don Moffat, captain of McMullen's 4.0 Senior team, will be joined by Scott Chambers, Steve Horstman, Jim McCook, Seaton Kenworthy, Eric Watson, Franz Henikl, Les Gustin, Chuck McPherson and Ed Klein in battling teams from Naples, Mulberry and Altamonte Springs in their flight. A top finish would advance them to Monday's semifinal round.

"Scott and Steve are our best No. 1 team, and the others are pretty interchangeable," said Moffat. "We'll all have jobs to do. If we're not out playing, we'll be out scouting the other teams."

Safety Harbor Spa's 4.5 Senior men's team is a combination of players from Royal Racquet Club, the Spa and the Racquet Club who have a multitude of experience in state and national competition.

"We have a lot of strong players, and even though we're new as a team, we have quite a bit of experience at tournament competition," said captain Chip Gamble. "We plan to mix around the players for the doubles combinations and think we can do pretty well."

Joining Gamble in the opening match at 11 a.m. Friday at Countryside against a team from Orlando will be Pierce Kelly, Tim Brady, Darrell Stewart, Dick Whissell, Bill Christensen, Ralph Howe, Bob Mullis and John Ross. John McGee is injured and most likely will not compete.

Innisbrook's 3.5 Senior women's team will compete among 14 teams beginning Friday afternoon at Royal Racquet Club. Members are captain Judy Murphy, Josie Doucette, Sue Luidens, Phyllis Gary, Joan Holland, Bonny Boosales, Maureen Sternberg, Debbie McGinley, Anne Hammond, Cheryl Cravener and Diane Galemmo.

Innisbrook's 3.5 Senior men's team includes captain Joe Gari, Willie Coquelet, Jim Utley, Dick Hough, Dick Lashley, Ed McGinley, Dick Willets, Jim Smith and Skip Parker. Innisbrook meets a team from Sarasota Friday morning at Countryside. There are 14 teams in the division.

SUNCOAST CHAMPIONS: The Racquet Club of St. Petersburg was the overall and A Division champion in the Suncoast Ladies Doubles League among 14 teams. The team also was first in the A Division of the fall, spring and overall sessions and was first in the fall B Division.

Bardmoor Golf and Tennis Club was second overall, won the overall B Division, and was first in the spring session and B Division.

WINNERS AT SPRING CLASSIC: Franz Henikl of Clearwater won the men's 4.0 singles championship in the Spring Classic Too at Safety Harbor Spa last weekend, and Seminole's Linda Cebedo won the women's 3.5. Henikl outlasted St. Petersburg's David Drescher 5-7, 6-2, 7-5, and Cebedo survived a second-set tiebreaker loss to defeat Alyce Cummings of Valrico 6-4, 6-7, 6-1.

COMING UP: The K-Swiss season-ending tournament is this weekend at Cheval Country Club. Registration for the summer session continues through May 30 and includes men's and women's singles, women's doubles and mixed doubles. Call 865-0615. The 10th annual Morton Plant Mease Charity Tennis Tournament is May 26-29 at East Lake Woodlands. Call 785-2212.