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Champions challenge for fun, charity

Bragging rights will be on the line in the Suncoast Tennis Foundation's fifth annual Tournament of Champions set for Jan. 19-21 at Royal Racquet Club in Clearwater.

Not only does the competition serve as the battleground to determine the best doubles teams during the 2006 charity tournament season, but it provides an opportunity to support the STF. The nonprofit STF strives to promote and develop tennis in Pinellas County, with emphasis on youths.

Teams eligible to compete are winners, runnerups, semifinalists and consolation winners from charity events that benefitted the American Cancer Society, Arthritis Foundation, Humane Society of North Pinellas, Good Samaritan and Big Brothers-Big Sisters. Winners and runnerups from last year's tournament also are eligible.

"It's nice to see how the Suncoast Tennis Foundation is expanding and generating more involvement in the community," said Phil Girardi, tennis director at Treasure Bay and STF board member.

Among the ways the STF has helped youths, said Girardi, was by assisting in travel expenses of his 18-and-under intermediate coed squad that recently claimed a national championship in USTA Team Tennis in Arizona.

New to the tournament is a consolation draw for all first-round losers, so everyone is guaranteed at least two matches. The entry fee is $45 for one event and $65 per person for two. Men's, women's and mixed doubles include 3.0, 3.5, 4.0, 4.5 and open levels. There also will be a draw party Jan. 19 and a silent auction throughout the weekend.

"We have been able to facilitate giving over 350 refurbished rackets, largely due to the generosity of Advantage Yours Tennis in Clearwater, and thousands of used tennis balls to elementary, middle and high school programs, as well as some inner city youth groups," said Judy Foster, STF's executive director. "We operate on about a $35,000 budget with 86 percent allocated to programs and services. This is our one opportunity to raise money to allow us to keep doing what we've implemented as well as to continue growing."

Anyone not aware of eligibility or who has not received an invitation, should contact Foster at 725-3681. Deadline to enter is Jan. 16.

ANNUAL AFFAIR: Nearly 400 volunteers, the highest in USTA Florida's history, attended last weekend's 57th annual meeting in Amelia Island near Jacksonville. Among the activities was the installation of officers and board of directors for the upcoming two-year term, 2007-08. Annual awards presented included recognizing Ruth Ann and Norm Ott for their achievement in coordinating local USTA leagues and Brent Boostrom for promoting College Campus Team Tennis at UCF. Nancy Morga* was inducted into the section's Hall of Fame.

NET SHOTS: Julia Jones reached the girls 12-and-under semifinals in the prestigious Eddie Herr International Junior Tennis Championships in Bradenton last week. Partnering with Boca Raton's Victoria Duval, Jones advanced to the girls 12 doubles final. Alex Domijian played to the boys 16 semifinal.

* In last weekend's Pre-Holiday Classic for juniors at the McMullen Tennis Complex, Danielle Collins (girls 18) and Julianne Gruber (16) defended their top seedings. Austin Powell (boys 16) and Dan Stefan (12) also claimed titles.

COMING UP: Treasure Bay Golf and Tennis hosts its Treasure Bay Rookie event beginning Saturday. Juniors 18-and-under should call 360-6062 today. ...Seminole Lake Tennis Academy hosts its Christmas Classic for juniors this weekend. Call 394-1733 today. ...This weekend, the College Tennis Academy hosts its annual Tennis Exposure Camp for junior players ages 15-18 at USF. Call 1-800-446-2238 or go to

News for this column may be faxed to Nancy Morgan, 445-4119; e-mailed to &; or sent to 710 Court St., Clearwater, FL 33756.