The Mainland got to hold onto bragging rights an extra six weeks, but at some point you have to play for them again.
Put on hold when Hurricane Matthew blasted the area, the Bridge Bowl Tennis matches get back onto the court this weekend, culminating with Sunday’s second Grand Final that pits group winners from Hilton Head Island against those from Bluffton and elsewhere on the mainland.
The final showdown is set for 11 a.m. Sunday at Palmetto Dunes.
“As in a lot of tennis events we’ve all been part of, you never know what might happen in the next one,” said Island captain Jackie Reynecke, director of tennis at Palmetto Dunes and one of the event’s founders.
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Last year’s inaugural edition went down to the final match before the Mainland prevailed in front of a gathering that may have sounded more like a basketball crowd than Saturday at Wimbledon.
In the weeks that followed, Islanders occasionally logged into their Facebook accounts to see Mainlanders eating cornflakes out of the trophy, or taking it on vacation.
“Just to tweak the Islanders,” said tournament director Jonathan Boyd, himself a Mainlander. “There’s been a lot of back-and-forth all year long.”
At its core, the Bridge Bowl is an extended doubles tournament, starting with separate Mainland and Island brackets to crown the best at each ratings level. Two mixed doubles draws were added this year, expanding the concept.
After each side crowns its set of champions, they square off against each other for team spoils.
“It’s turning into a great fun rivalry,” Reynecke said. “There’s a little trash talk in there, and people do look for fun ways to make the most of their weekend.”
Nearly 180 players took part in the inaugural event, which was organized in just 60 days. More than 200 signed up this year, with the Grand Final scheduled for Oct. 9. Instead, that was the weekend Matthew tore up the Atlantic coast.
The delay caused a certain amount of shuffling as players’ plans changed and tennis facilities worked to get up and running again. Nonetheless, the weekend began with 28 doubles tandems in the Island draw and 34 on the mainland.
There’s a charitable sidelight to the event as well, with proceeds split between Bluffton Self Help, the Deep Well Project on Hilton Head Island and a fund to offset medical and rehabilitation expenses for Armando Cruel, recovering from a cerebral aneurysm suffered in May.
Attendees this weekend are asked to bring an unwrapped children’s toy for the nonprofits’ Christmas drives.
“When we saw how many toys were collected (last) Christmas, it was fantastic,” said Mainland captain Gavin Cox, who operates Rose Hill’s Tennis Club of the Low Country. “People that weren’t even playing the tournament still brought toys for kids. That’s our community, and that’s really what it’s all about.”