FLINT — One of the oldest tennis clubs in the state celebrates its 100th anniversary with a special “vintage” tournament on Labor Day.
The Flint Tennis Club, a facility of eight natural clay tennis courts located in Kellar Park at 1902 Hammerberg Road in Flint, will host a Woody Tournament round robin and picnic on Sept. 5 beginning at 9:30 a.m. To honor the 1920s era, players will be able to wear all-white tennis uniforms of the era and play with old wooden rackets.
Trophies will be awarded to the male and female winners, and prizes will be awarded to the best-dressed male and female players and to the player with the oldest wooden racket.
Bob Chunn, a teaching professional at the Flint Tennis Club and founder of the annual Woody Tournament, said the event has become a favorite with club members and is highly anticipated with the club’s 100 year celebration.
“People have fun doing that because it’s so different from playing with modern equipment,” he said. “It gives you an appreciation of the period and the progress that has taken place in the sport since then.”
Players can register for the Woody Tournament at the club beginning at 9 a.m. on Labor Day. Admission is free for club members and $10 for non-members.
For decades, the Flint Tennis Club has been a go-to destination for local tennis fans and considered a rarity for its natural “yellow” clay courts, believed to be Michigan’s only remaining such courts. Natural clay courts require constant watering and grooming and more overall maintenance than red clay courts and more common asphalt courts.
Chunn said most players enjoy playing on natural clay surfaces and navigating their unpredictability.
“You have to be more focused when playing on this surface because the ball bounce will be different with every shot,” he said. “However, the advantage of playing on a clay court is that it’s easier on your body than a hard surface.”
The Flint Tennis Club has its roots in 1922 when the city of Flint built six clay courts at Kearsley Park on the east side of town. In 1933, the Flint Tennis Commission was founded, paving the way for the construction of a new clay-court facility on city-owned property off Hammerberg Road, near Swartz Creek and the Swartz Creek Golf Course managed by the city.
The club itself was located on a 10-acre parcel of land donated to the city by George Kellar, a prominent developer and former mayor of Flint. Eight tennis courts were built in 1937-38 by Depression-era Works Progress Association (WPA) workers.
At the height of its popularity in the 1960s and 1970s, the Flint Tennis Club was a major community center for local tennis players and the host of tournaments that drew competitors from across the state. Recently, the courts have hosted matches for the Powers Catholic High School girls’ and boys’ tennis teams and the USTA NJTL-Todd Martin Youth Leadership Program.
Although membership numbers have dwindled a bit at present, the club still attracts around 70 members a year and hosts mixes, leagues, tournaments and a weekly potluck on Thursday nights. The club is generally open from mid-April to mid-October, depending on weather conditions.
Club members receive a club key and have access to a pitching machine for practice. Lessons with USPTA professionals are also offered for all levels and ages, and new guests are encouraged to try the courts.
For more information about Flint Tennis Club or to apply for membership, visit flinttennis.com.