“We didn’t care what it was doing outside,” Olmstead said. “As long as the court wasn’t slick we played.
“I remember playing with him in snow and in some sleet. Cold weather ... golly! Nothing stopped us.”
Even though Olmstead’s playing partner has passed away, Close’s appreciation for tennis exists today in the form of a tournament bearing his name.
The Charlie Close NTRP Classic, in its 33rd year, will get under way tonight at the Rob Leake City Park tennis courts in Tupelo.
“He moved here years ago and he kind of helped get tennis going in the area,” said Olmstead, who at 63 is a board member of the Tupelo Tennis Association. “He was a force behind tennis. When he was alive, he could promote it any way he could.”
Olmstead said Close wanted players of all levels to play in his tournament, in particular the average local player.
That is why Close, says Olmstead, always wanted the tournament to be non-sanctioned, so the event would not attract the really good players who will play to earn points that boost their rankings in accordance with the United States Tennis Association.
“He didn’t want the top players to come in because the local people wouldn’t play,” Olmstead said. “With the top players coming in, they would realize that they didn’t have a chance.”
Says Tupelo Tennis Association Vice President Mollie Gratz, “Basically, it was just a tournament which encouraged the beginner to have a shot at competition.”
While the Charlie Close Classic is sanctioned by the Mississippi Tennis Association, the Southern Tennis Association and the USTA, the annual Tupelo tournament has done a good job of attracting local players, with junior players – those 18 and under – allowed to play in the open divisions.
Eighty-one players have signed up to play in this year’s tournament.
“That number is up from last year,” said tournament official Amy Williams. “We got a lot more out-of-town players this year.”
Williams said players from Middleton, Tenn., the metro-Jackson area and Indianola will be participating.
Says Kim Green, a 29-year-old Fulton resident, “It’s a good opportunity for people in neighboring areas to come. Players aren’t just from Tupelo that come.
“You get to socialize with your friends and it provides a good opportunity to meet new tennis players.”
Green, who played in the event as a junior, will be teamed with Daniel Pounders in the mixed doubles open division. They will play their first match at 8 a.m. Saturday.
Also playing doubles, but in the men’s 3.5 division, is Richard Tucker of Tupelo. He and his playing partner, Tupelo resident Greg Weatherford, will be vying for a trip to Sunday afternoon’s championship match at 2 p.m.
“We’ll have tents and seating for people to get out of the sun and sit and watch the championships,” said Tucker, who is a board member of the Tupelo Tennis Association.
“We’re trying to have like a Wimbledon kind of thing where you have a championship Sunday.”
Charlie Close NTRP Classic
- What: An annual USTA-sanctioned tennis tournament that is in its 33rd year.
- When: Starts tonight at 6 and lasts through Sunday. Saturday’s and Sunday’s matches begin at 8 a.m. and last throughout the day.
- Where: Rob Leake City Park courts in Tupelo.
- Schedule/results: May be found at http://tennislink.usta.com/Tournaments/TournamentHome/Tournament.aspx?T=77098