BAY CITY, Michigan – Joe Ricard sees tennis on the left and tennis on the right.
The love of the game is evident wherever Ricard looks every year during the Bay County Tennis Championship, making it his happy place.
“It’s a beautiful sight,” said Ricard, president of the Bay Community Tennis Association. “Seeing all the people who come out to play and support makes me so happy for our board, the neighborhood and the community.”
The seventh annual Bay County Tennis Championship takes over the Janet Jopke Courts at Richard Shaw Park this weekend, with mixed doubles action scheduled for Friday, singles Saturday and doubles Sunday. More than 80 players are expected to compete during the three-day tournament.
The tournament has been booming since its debut in 2015 as the game increasingly thrives in Bay City. It’s a marquee weekend for the tennis association, which not only hosts its signature event, but also hosts a post-tournament party where its $20,000 raffle ends.
The party is scheduled for 4 p.m. on Sunday and the draw at 5 p.m. at Coonan’s Irish Hub, 1004 N. Johnson St. Tickets are $50 and can be purchased throughout the tournament.
“It’s going to be a big weekend for tennis in Bay City,” Ricard said.
The Bay County Championship offers youth and adult competitions over all three days. New this year, the youth classification includes the 16-18 and 10-15 age categories. The Meijer-sponsored tournament uses a pool game format that gives each participant a chance to play multiple matches.
The tournament, which started with a field of 24 players in 2015, expanded to 77 players a year ago and is expected to top it this time around. Based on the number of high school attendees and participation in the free Monday night adult drop-in program, the sport continues to grow in popularity since Jopke Courts opened.
“If you look at where we were from pre-construction to now, it’s been a big change,” Ricard said. “Our only goal is to grow the game of tennis and that’s definitely happened. People are on the court almost every day and all day long. It’s a nice addition to Bay City.
Proceeds from the tournament will go to the Tennis Association as well as the Alex Burke Memorial Scholarship Fund. Play is scheduled to start at 4 p.m. Friday and 8 a.m. Saturday and Sunday.
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