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Sunday, Aug. 28, 2016

Nunnelee Memorial Tennis Tournament hopes to build on record-breaking year

Sunday, May 11, 2003

Standing from left are event organizer Tom Nunnelee, Larry Tetley of the Sikeston Country Club, Charlie Vickery of Sikeston Public Schools, tournament director Joe Childress and sponsor Danny Bridger
SIKESTON -- The 13th Annual Ed Nunnelee Memorial Tennis Tournament is set to take place May 30 through June 1 at the Sikeston High School and Sikeston Country Club tennis courts. Considering last year's event was the largest and most financially successful to date, tournament organizer Tom Nunnelee has high expectations for this year's event.

"We had a lot of new people here last year that said they were going to bring even more people back," said Nunnelee. "Our mailing list has increased in numbers. We're excited about the 13th annual tournament."

The tournament has become the most high-profile summer tennis tournament in Southeast Missouri, catering to both male and female players of all ages and experience levels.

Last year the event drew a record 125 total entries from six different states for junior and adult play.

"With the great facilities we have at the Country Club and Sikeston Senior High, especially with the new pavilion, it helps us provide a quality tournament," said Nunnelee. Junior play will start May 30, followed by the adult brackets on May 31. Each participant is limited to three events, with a fee of $12 per entry and $16 per doubles team.

Balls will be furnished for each match, and each competitor will receive a T-shirt.

"The players just have to show up with a racket, tennis shoes and have tennis clothes on," explained Nunnelee. "Everything else is provided for them, thanks to the help of the sponsors we have."

Mike Stevens, the new women's tennis coach at Southeast Missouri State University, has agreed to help out with the tournament.

"Ironically, (Stevens') wife also wanted to help us after she found out my brother was killed by a drunk driver," said Nunnelee. "Mrs. Stevens' 17-year-old brother was also killed by a drunk driver. They're both looking forward to helping us in any way they can."

Several SEMO players and other local college tennis players are also expected to be on hand.

Joe Childress has been with the tournament for several years and will be this year's tournament director.

"We're just looking forward to another fun weekend," said Childress. "Hopefully the weather will cooperate and all the stormy stuff will get out of the way. Rain or shine, we're going to be there."

Greg Colwick will continue to serve as co-director, and local tennis enthusiast Bill Bradley will also be a co-director.

Long-standing director Lee Shell has stepped down from his position, but will still assist in taking entries and helping with the draw for the brackets.

"We have various other people that continue to help us with the tournament," said Nunnelee. "I can't say enough about all the folks that help make the Ed Nunnelee Memorial a great event."

All proceeds from the event will go toward the Ed Nunnelee Scholarship Fund, which annually awards scholarships to a senior boy and girl from Sikeston High School. To qualify, applicants must have lettered in a varsity sport at Sikeston. Citizenship and class rank are also taken into account.

Each scholarship is $750. Over $10,000 has been awarded since the tournament began in 1997. Last year's recipients were Stephen Pobst, who attends the University of Missouri-St. Louis, and Heather Hester, who is at Pepperdine in Malibu, Calif.

This year, Danny's Place will also contribute to the scholarship fund. The bar and grill will host a special event on May 31, with the blues band Swing Cat Swing playing from 8 p.m. to 12 a.m.

The cover charge will be $3, which will go directly to the scholarship fund.

"It can raise as much money annually as the tennis tournament itself," said Nunnelee. "I can foresee raising the scholarship amounts up next year."

The owner of Danny's Place, Danny Bridger, has ties to the tournament.

"Ed was a good friend of mine in high school," explained Bridger. "He and I played in tennis tournaments as doubles partners and would go as far as Carbondale and Columbia to play in tournaments. We would always win, because Ed was such a great player."

The scholarships will be presented on Monday night. Longtime tournament sponsors include Nunnelee Funeral Chapel, Noranda, Pullen Bros., Rodchester's Delicatessen, Danny's Place, U.S. Bank, First State Bank and Trust, Union Planters Bank, First National Bank, Standard Democrat, Pepsi, Sabona Copper Wristband, Media Consultants and Mitchell Insurance. The tournament has also added three new sponsors this year with Sikeston & Miner Convention Visitors Bureau, Hahs Machine Works and KFVS-12.

"My whole family is so gratified with the way this thing has grown," said Nunnelee. "This is probably the premier tennis event in this region, as far as numbers, the caliber of play, and what we provide. I'm just elated with what this event has become in my brother's name."

Anyone interested in participating in this year's tournament can mail or phone entries to Bradley (472-3753), Shell (471-4188), Childress (471-7160), Colwick (471-5888) or Nunnelee (471-0935).

The deadline for entries is May 28. "I encourage any child that just wants to learn how to play tennis to come out," said Nunnelee. "You only get better by participating. This is an excellent opportunity, especially for Sikeston kids, to come out and learn to enjoy a game that you can play for a lifetime."

Participants are asked to send any information available for the seeding of the tournament.