“I loved the feel of playing on grass. It was an almost surreal experience.”
These are the words of Dr Mike Godlonton, who along with his partner Alke Bradfield, swept aside all competition to win the St Andrew’s College Inaugural Lawn Tennis Challenge in Grahamstown last weekend.
The event was held as a fundraiser for the local Child Welfare branch and the proceeds from the tournament will go towards erecting a Community Centre for their centenary celebration next year.
Organiser of the event and SAC’s professional tennis coach, Walter Eksteen, has been wanting to arrange the tennis challenge for more than five years.
“I must have measured this court ten times. I’ve double checked and triple checked the measurements. In 2016, there was only one weekend on the entire calendar free, at the very end of the cricket season and right before the rugby season begins,” he said.
Thanks to Roger Wilkinson, the St Andrew’s College groundskeeper, the court was prepared on the Knowling field using the existing cricket pitches. Most of the sixteen participants were playing on grass for the first time and were very impressed with the quality of the court. Sean Thompson, who lived and played tennis in the United Kingdom for eleven years, said, “I would say this court is on par with the grass surfaces I played on in England.”
If the grass surface was not enough, the event was given even more of a Wimbledon feel with players dressed in all white, strawberries and champagne being served to end off the first day’s play, stands on the side of the court for the spectators and ball girls and boys.
Pete Andrew, Director of Sport at the school, said he hoped the novelty event would give tennis a higher profile on campus.
“This is such a good opportunity to showcase tennis as a sport as well as the talent of the students. Hopefully, we can get the boys and girls involved to a greater extent next year.”
The participants and organisers hope that the tennis challenge will become an annual event. Winner, Alke Bradfield, said she was glad to be part of the inaugural squad that will be invited back in 2017.
“It’s a unique concept and such fun to be involved in something different.” Bradfield said.
Several local businesses contributed to the success of the event, namely Kariega Game Reserve, Harcourts, Buco, Wimpy, Xtreme Sports, Kwikspar and Mugg & Bean.
“Fun concept on grass. Nice to be able to support Walter and St Andrew’s.” – Victoria Goodall Former DSG girl
“I enjoyed getting into the spirit of Wimbledon with the grass, the strawberries and the champagne.” – Peter Allnutt, from PE
“I loved the grass court and playing and meeting so many different people.” – Shimorne Prince
“Anything that involves tennis, I am up for it. The grass suited my game. The tournament was also held for a good cause.” – Alcon Jasson, Member at Grahamstown Club for 10 years
“I thoroughly enjoyed playing on grass. It’s my first time ever. There is great variety of people. It’s a lovely way to spend the weekend.” – Peter Ellis