Good cause, playful insults: Tennis Bridge Bowl returns to Hilton Head and Bluffton

Participants in the 2016 Bridge Bowl tennis tournament celebrate their success.
Participants in the 2016 Bridge Bowl tennis tournament celebrate their success. Special to The Island Packet/ The Beaufort Gazette

Hilton Head Island takes pride in its tennis heritage. Legendary names such as Stan Smith and Dennis Van der Meer still echo on its courts, and a mix of local recreational, club and league players join tourists and aspiring juniors to create a vibrant scene.

All this impresses players in other communities, such as Bluffton … uh, not very much, thank you.

It’s that good-natured spirit that is fueling the fourth-annual Bridge Bowl tennis tournament this weekend, when about 250 players will participate in a three-day event to benefit Deep Well Project and Bluffton Self Help. The tournament, which features a team of players from the Island competing against a team of Mainland players, has raised nearly $30,000 for the charities since 2015.

Bluffton Self Help executive director Kimberly Hall and Deep Well’s Sandy Gillis both say the Bridge Bowl has become an important part of being able to carry out their missions. “We love the Bridge Bowl,” Gillis said.

The number of players participating has grown over the years, and according to Tennis Club of the Lowcountry owner Gavin Cox, it has become a much-anticipated event in the community.

“It’s been enjoyable to watch this event grow,” Cox said.

That growth is in large part due to its good cause, and in no small part because of a steady stream of playful insults that set the tone for the weekend, mainly by one of the event’s main founders, Jon Boyd, partner at wealth management company Blackwell Boyd and Associates.

The back and forth goes something like this:

Bluffton’s Boyd: “We set the schedule around their chardonnay and brie times.”

The Island’s captain Sam Cavanaugh: “I’m just happy to hear they play. We thought all they did over there was hang out in deer stands or play cornhole.”

And then there are the bragging rights. If you are keeping score — and everyone involved is keeping score — the Mainland team has won two of the first three events, though the Island can claim the most recent title.

This year’s early-round matches will be played at Moss Creek and the Tennis Club of the Lowcountry at Rose Hill on Friday and Saturday. Sunday’s finals will be hosted for the first time by the Colleton River Club, with matches beginning at 9 a.m. Play will feature some of the area’s best teaching professionals as well as recreational players of all skill levels. Matches are open to the public at no cost.

Tennis Bridge Bowl Information at a Glance:

Friday-Saturday: Regional matches will be held at Moss Creek (Island team) and TLC at Rose Hill (Mainland team).

Sunday: Championship matches to be held at Colleton River Club.