CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The Public Courts tournament has zoomed past its golden anniversary and shows no signs of slowing down in this, its 54th year.
But tournament directors Kim and Rory Isaac know the annual tennispalooza in Charleston would be long gone and forgotten if not for a dedicated group of sponsors and volunteers who keep coming back for more every year.
"There's no way to run a tournament this size for nine straight days without having all these people come out and help us,'' Kim Isaac said. "They know each year what role they play and how they can help, and they just show up and do it.
"It's just fabulous to have them as part of it. They are the success of the tournament. We really feel blessed to have them all involved.''
Kim Isaac estimated that about 25 people volunteer their time and efforts for various - sometimes mundane - duties that include working draw sheets at the tournament desk, setting up the courts, removing rainwater with squeegees, carrying score cards, handling T-shirts, packing coolers, serving drinks and working with sponsors.
That's before, during and after matches of a tournament that sports 40 divisions of competition and more than 400 players.
"There's a lot of work getting ready for the tournament,'' said Bobby White, who for many years roamed those same Schoenbaum Courts in Kanawha City serving as tennis coach at George Washington High School. "And that's what these guys do.''
Christi Smith, who used to coordinate play at Coonskin Park when some Public Courts matches were contested there, said she's been a volunteer "for so long I can't remember'' when she started.
"After working up there [at Coonskin],'' Smith said, "I'd come back down here and help - pick up trash, whatever needed done.''
Don Vredeveld, a past Public Courts director and past president of the local United States Tennis Association district, said he's been connected with the Charleston tournament for 30 years.
"It's community service,'' said Vredeveld, whose son Bud serves as the tennis pro at Glade Springs resort in Daniels. "I've been involved in tennis for a long time, and it all started with taking my kid to tennis tournaments. It was fun. It was good father-son bonding stuff.
"We've run a lot of tournaments, and I've always enjoyed working in this tournament. A lot of other tournaments are work. This one is fun, and that's primarily what it's supposed to be.''
Tom Hanna, another former Public Courts director, like Vredeveld keeps coming back to assist in any way he can. He began as a volunteer in 1974.