Beaufort News

Area tennis pros launching new league on Friday nights

Four tennis professionals sat around a lunch table at Steamers Seafood and conducted their best imitation of a fantasy football draft.

They chose their sleepers. They avoided the overrated.

Aside from that, however, it wasn't an ordinary fantasy football draft. They didn't pick players from the NFL, but rather from Hilton Head Island tennis sites.

The four managers -- Matt Wuller, Lee Holyoak, Patrick Mason and Michael O'Keefe -- were picking their teams for the inaugural season of the Hilton Head Island Professional Tennis League, which opens today with a 6 p.m. match at South Beach Racquet Club.

"It wasn't your typical draft," said Wuller, director of tennis at Sea Pines Country Club. "But it was great. A lot of fun."

In all, 41 players were assigned to four teams -- Family Island Dental, Mattress Firm, Steamers and Coral Resorts -- to form the only league of its kind on the island.

Muller and Holyoak founded the league, two years after Holyoak moved to Hilton Head Island from Charleston, which hosts a similar professional league. Holyoak is now the director of tennis at Long Cove Club.

"We've been talking about doing it for awhile, but we finally put it on paper and got it together," Muller said. "It's been a lot of fun working on this."

The league will feature local players with NTRP rankings 4.5 and higher, and most are certified teaching professionals.

Matches will be played weekly on Friday evenings, with the site rotating each week among area tennis clubs. Muller said he expects 200 to 300 fans to show up each week. Attendance at each match is free.

Teams will use six of their 10 players each week and split them into three doubles pairings, similar to a USTA League format. The team to win two or more of the three doubles matches will be awarded a victory.

The league's inaugural season will conclude with a championship match June 10 at Long Cove Club.