The tournament, a memoriam to the late Ed Nunnelee, former Sikeston High School basketball and tennis player who was tragically killed in an automobile accident in June, 1988, at the age of 30, has blossomed into a much-
anticipated summer sports event in the Sikeston area.
Tom Nunnelee, Ed's brother, has been a guiding force behind the tournament since its inception in 1990.
Chris Matthews serves as this year's tournament director, assisted by co-
directors Joe Childress and Bob McCord III.
The three-day event is scheduled for June 2, 3 and 4, with play on courts at Sikeston High School, the Sikeston Country Club and on soon-to-be completed courts at the Sikeston Sports Complex.
In 2005, the tournament reached an all-time high in number of entrants at 160, up from 135 in 2004. Competitors from six states participated.
"The tournament has grown through its popularity with the many repeat players through the years," said Nunnelee. "We began with a half dozen to 10 sponsors and now there are 25 corporate sponsors so we are able to offer many amenities to the participants that other tournaments don't, including new tennis balls for each match, bottled drinks, t-shirts, Sabona bracelets, trophies and plaques.
"We've also added the Health Facilities Rehab staff to provide injury treatment and massage therapy by BodyWorks."
A complete list of sponsors include Bizzell Nursery, BodyWorks Massage Therapy, KFVS-TV, Noranda Aluminum, Sikeston Jaycee Bootheel Rodeo, Sikeston Lion's Club, Hahs Machine Works, Pullen Bros. Trucking, Nunnelee Funeral Chapel, First State Bank and Trust Co., Montgomery Bank, Danny's Place, Regions Bank, Rodchester's Deli, Mitchell Insurance, Matthews Cotton Co., Sabona, Health Facilities Rehab Service, U.S. Bank, Sikeston Motor Co., Advertising and Graphic Design Services, the Standard-Democrat, Pepsi-Cola Bottling Co. and the Joe Recker State Farm Insurance Agency.
While providing a player-friendly environment along with wholesome family entertainment, the tournament's prime goal, however, is to provide an annual scholarship fund to reward worthy Sikeston High School seniors, one male and one female.
The tournament growth has also benefited its scholarship recipients. The stipend has increased from $500 to $750 to $1,000, as of this year.
Tournament proceeds have pumped $15,000 into the scholarship fund since 1997 to present.
Originally begun as a juniors-only event, the Ed Nunnelee Memorial Tournament format has been expanded to now include junior, adult and senior divisions.
Play begins on Friday, June 2, for juniors, while adults open on Saturday, June 3, with 8:30 a.m. start times both days. All matches are decided by best two of three sets with a 12-point tie-breaker.
Entry fees are $12 for singles and $16 per team for doubles, with a maximum of two events per player. Sign-up deadline is Wednesday, May 31.
Co-tournament director Childress spoke of a scenario he and tournament directors envision as an offshoot of the event.
"What we look forward to, and I know Tom (Nunnelee) is very instrumental in promoting tennis in this area, is to get a kid that's (age) 16 or 17 entered in his first tournament as a junior, win his age bracket, then get invited to participate with the adults the next day," said Childress. "Let him play a round or two there and just get eaten up with the tennis bug and turn out to be a Stephen Pobst (former Sikeston High tennis standout) or a Jenni DeWitt (current Sikeston High girls tennis standout and the 15-16-year-old Nunnelee singles champion) that goes on and has an extremely good college career."
Among the defending champions expected to return are men's open singles and doubles titlist Danny Somerville of Paris, Tenn., along with his doubles partner Todd Tilghman of Union City, Tenn.
Joe Recker of Sikeston, a double winner last year, will likely return to defend his Class "A" singles title and "B" doubles crown. Recker and Sikeston's Danny Cooper teamed for the doubles championship.
A contingency plan, in case of foul weather, moves the tournament to June 9, 10 and 11.
"We expect, weather permitting, another record year," said Childress.