Honouring the memory of a local woman who had a passion for tennis, the seventh annual Thelma Smith Memorial Tournament runs this Saturday at the Red Deer Tennis Club.
This year’s event, which begins at about 10 a.m., is in honour of Les Duffy and Fernando Bustamante who were dedicated members of the Club at one time as well.
There will be three draw times and the day wraps up with a potluck supper after the tourney ends around 5 p.m.
Duffy was a member with the seniors for a number of years, and another one of his passions was the old-time hockey club, explained Mary Gardiner, a Club member and also a director on the Club’s board. “He was a realtor in Red Deer for a number of years, and he had a terrific sense of humour.” Duffy passed away in 2009.
Bustamante, who passed away in 2013, came from Chile a number of years ago and always played tennis. “He was very low-key in his personality, but very crafty with his spin serve and his drop shots. He was a member for a great number of years, and his two sons played as well. They also still live in Red Deer.”
Ultimately, the tourney is a wonderful time for members young and old to get together, play some tennis and just catch up with each other. There is also a time set apart to honour the ones who the particular tournament is in honour of.
“It’s a very popular tournament,” said Gardiner, who has been a part of the organization for about 40 years herself. Typically, about 50 players take part. “And those courts are busy all day.”
The tournament will be held with the same format as previous years, which was started in memory of Thelma Smith, who passed away in June of 2009. Smith was a dedicated supporter of the Red Deer Tennis Club, and it was decided an annual tennis tourney was a fitting way to honour her many years of involvement as a fan and a player.
“I remember her well – we won several medals together in the Alberta Summer Games,” said Gardiner.
Meanwhile, players are of all levels from advanced to intermediate to beginner. And one need not be a Club member to take part in the tournament, she said. “The cost is $15.”
For more information, contact the Club at 403-346-7567 or Mary Gardiner at 403-347-7561.
The Red Deer Tennis Club is a non-profit organization of volunteers dedicated to promoting tennis and sportsmanship in a club setting. Membership is consistently over 200 adults and juniors, from beginners to provincially ranked players. The Club operates as a year-round club with staff and coaches.
The facilities include eight outdoor hard courts, six with lights, four indoor hard courts, and a clubhouse. It’s located next to the Recreation Centre, across the street from the Red Deer Curling Club and Farmers Market, and kitty-corner to the Red Deer Lodge.
Its history in the City stretches back more than a century, said Gardiner adding that the first Red Deer Tennis Club members played on courts in the City square. To be precise, the Club is in its 115th year.
“It was a club before Alberta become a province,” added Gardiner with a laugh.
“The interesting thing about tennis in Red Deer is that we have had all surfaces – grass, clay and hard courts.” Club members are also looking to expand the massive bubble, because tennis is becoming increasingly popular across the region, she said.
“Tennis is growing so much, and we have so many juniors – some on the international level – that are coming out of this Club because of our coaches. So we are looking to expand.
“I love the social part of it, and the camaraderie,” said Gardiner of her own passion for the sport. “I also love traveling to different places and trying to figure out the strengths and weaknesses of my opponents.
“Tennis players are very down to earth, and they come from all walks of life.”
Check out www.reddeertennis.com.