For two decades, Berkeley Hall resident Norm Chryst watched ATP matches from the umpire's chair, so he has seen countless times what it takes to play winning tennis.
But it was something else Chryst learned from his unusual perspective that helped him Monday at Sea Pines Racquet Club, when he and partner Joe Keenan realized their match would determine whether the Hampton Lakers team won the men's 4.0 title at the USTA League South Carolina Senior State Championship.
"I watched the best tennis in the world, and you pick up a little bit, but it's their mental toughness that really rubs off," Chryst said. "My job was a lot of concentration and a lot of focus, and that's what this is. You have to block out a lot of stuff that's going on around you -- the noise, the people, the crowd cheering for the other team or cheering for you. You have to block all that out and just focus on playing tennis."
Chryst and Keenan managed to do that well enough, holding off a late charge from Bob Fulton and Chuck Zapiec to lead the Hampton Lakers to a 2-1 victory against the Wexford Witness Protection team.
The title was one of five for Beaufort County teams -- the Palmetto Dunes Tennis Center Volley Dolls (4.5 women), the South Beach Sandspurs (3.5 women), the Haig Point Marshside Mamas (3.0 women) and the Habersham Half Volleys (3.0 men) also won their divisions.
With two Beaufort County teams playing for the title, the men's 4.0 final drew a big crowd, all of which was congregated around the Chryst/Keenan vs. Fulton/Zapiec match after the teams split the other two courts.
After winning the first set and going up 4-0 in the second, Chryst and Keenan watched their Wexford opponents win three straight games to rev up their cheering section, but the Hampton Lake duo won the final two games to put it away.
"That's why I play tennis -- for the competition," Keenan said. "That's the best thing about it. Just to be in a battle and end up winning, that's the best part."
The 4.5 women's final also went down to the final match, and a super tiebreak at that, before Lori Bergmann and Rachel Sigmon won the 10-point tiebreak to give the Volley Dolls the win.
The Marshside Mamas had no such close calls in bringing home Daufuskie Island's first senior state title. They swept all three courts in their semifinal and final matches Monday to finish off an undefeated season, an impressive feat for a team that moved up from the adult 2.5 division to the senior 3.0 division this year.
"We really didn't think much about it," co-captain Linda Blanchette said. "We thought we would have fun this year, because it was a bit stressful last year, and then we just kept winning and winning. Then it was even more stressful."
The division winners qualified for the sectional tournament to be played in Mobile, Ala., in August.
The tournament, which is in the first year of a three-year deal to be played on the island and hosted by the Tennis Association of Hilton Head Island, included 1,200 players and 103 teams, according to Dennis Malick of TENNIS E-News.
An economic impact study in 2008 estimated the event brings about $1.4 million to Hilton Head Island.
3.0 men: Habersham Half Volleys
3.0 women: Marshside Mamas
3.5 women: South Beach Sandspurs
4.0 men: Hampton Lakers
4.5 women: Palmetto Dunes Tennis Center Volley Dolls
3.0 men: Moss Creek Tornadoes
4.0 men: Wexford Witness Protection