ESCANABA — The sport of tennis is alive and well in the Escanaba area as the 75th Michigan-Wisconsin Open looms this weekend.
From the Escanaba boys’ tennis program — which won both the Great Northern Conference Championship and UP Finals Championship for the second year in a row — to the newly refurbished Ludington Park courts and the new tennis facility at the high school that is currently under construction, the sport has seen quite the resurgence in the area.
One person who has been able to see this has been Tom Penegor. Aside from being a player himself, Penegor is also the head coach of the Escanaba high school boys’ program, which he believes — alongside the girls’ program — is a big part of getting people involved in the sport alongside the new courts.
“At this point, it’s (what comes first). Is it the cart or the horse? Is it the egg, or is it the chicken?” Penegor commented. “They both help each other grow. Having done well these last couple years has definitely helped the boys and the girls.
“With the success of tennis with the boys and the girls, … I think that all helps. When you add the new tennis court facility, I think that’s even going to bring more participation and more interest in this sport, too.”
The new facility at the high school was made possible by a donation from Pat Abrahamson last year. It will feature eight courts and a pavilion, making high school meets easier with all students competing at one central location instead of scattered around the numerous tennis courts in the city.
“(I want to say) thank you to the Abrahamson family for their big part in making this tennis court project happen,” Penegor noted.
While the high school courts continue to be built, the newly refurbished — in 2021 — set of courts at Ludington Park will be used this weekend for the Michigan-Wisconsin Open. It will be the first time in three years since they were last used for the tournament thanks to the renovations.
In addition to a new look, the courts are also constructed to reduce the impact on the body while playing.
“Those courts down there are very nice. They are very nice,” Penegor said. “The ball hits nice on those courts, … and they’re giving on your body. You can feel that little bit of cushion just a little bit. It’s not as hard as the traditional court. It’s definitely a positive for somebody who might worry about their knees or their hip or their feet. They’re real nice and good to play on.”
This weekend’s 75th Michigan-Wisconsin Open will feature players from the UP, the lower peninsula, Wisconsin and other states.
To keep it alive this long is something that Penegor takes pride in.
“I think it’s a great accomplishment,” Penegor said. “Especially in an area where it’s not a southern or western state where the weather is ideal. The weather isn’t perfect for a summer sport like that, and I think that’s one thing that is impressive.
“Back a few years ago, there used to be tournaments always running in Marquette, Kingsford, Iron Mountain and Escanaba. There was always three or four of them every year. It looks like, now, there is just the one here in Escanaba still going. Just on that element by itself, I think it is so important if we want to keep tennis going in our community that adds to the importance of having a nice tournament like we have.”