Beaufort News

Annual Wheelchair Tennis Championships start today on Hilton Head Island

Gordon Reid, right, has won the last three singles titles in the PTR Wheelchair Tennis Championships. The annual tournament begins today on Hilton Head Island.
Gordon Reid, right, has won the last three singles titles in the PTR Wheelchair Tennis Championships. The annual tournament begins today on Hilton Head Island. File -- The Island Packet

Julie Jilly rolled over in bed earlier this week to the excruciating sound of a telephone ring.

It was 5:45 a.m., and Jilly -- the tournament director for the Professional Tennis Registry Wheelchair Tennis Championships -- was in no mood to get up and answer the call. Until, of course, it rang again.

"A guy from India is on his way here and he got stuck in Dubai and missed his flight," she said of the call. "It's amazing that they're coming from this far away."

The player from India is just one of 80 people from nine different countries flocking to Hilton Head Island this weekend for the Fall Southern PTR $17,500 Wheelchair Tennis Championships, an event that has taken place in the Lowcountry for more than 25 years.

The tournament, which is just one of the stops along the International Tennis Federation's Wheelchair Tennis Tour, will feature some of the world's elite wheelchair tennis talent as well as amateurs getting their first taste of the sport.

"This tournament is for top players in the world as well as new players who have just started playing, people who have full-time jobs and they're just playing tennis on the side for fun," Jilly said. " ... You really have a great variety of players here, and it's just extremely cool because it's real motivational for those early new players who have rarely played before playing right next to the greatest players that are out there in their sport."

Players range from as young as 13 to as old as 70, as Hilton Head's Dr. Roger Sorg will compete for the third consecutive year. The event is divided into junior, men, women and quad divisions.

The tournament has come quite a long way since the mid-1980s, when Dennis Van Der Meer put six old men in a van and took them from the S.C. Vocational Rehabilitation Department to Hilton Head to knock around a few tennis balls.

"We couldn't get six people who had ever even seen a tennis ball before," Jilly said. "These guys had never played tennis.

" ... He brought those six guys over so that he could show them just how much tennis could do for them. It's just grown to this tremendous event that is amazing."

What: Professional Tennis Registry $17,500 Wheelchair Tennis Championships

Where: Chaplin Park Tennis Center, Hilton Head Island

When: Today through Sunday

Notes: Chaplin Park Tennis Center will be the host site for the professional matches while Hilton Head Motorcoach Resort off Arrow Road will house the A, B and C divisions. ... Play gets under way at 9 a.m. today and continues through Sunday. ... In conjunction with Sunday's finals, the tournament will host a workshop on how to teach wheelchair tennis. That event will take place at Chaplin Park.

Admission: Free

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