USTA aids Panhandle tennis programs

LYNN HAVEN, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - The first week of practice for high school tennis came to a close on Saturday, although court time in the Panhandle is limited thanks to Hurricane Michael.

Several facilities were destroyed, totaling tens of thousands of dollars of damage according to coaches and athletic directors at Bay County schools.

Panama City Racquet Club suffered significant damage as well, but they're back. Saturday, the club hosted a a free clinic for about forty high school players.

Owners Thomas and Laura dobbins also hosted a representative from the United States Tennis Association with two goals: boost morale now and return to normalcy later.

"We've earmarked money to help the tennis community here and USTA national is also going to be directing money hereto try to help repair courts, lights, windscreens, tennis equipment and all that," Panhandle representative George English said. "We really want to help the tennis community here that has been devastated. We also want to try to keep the interest up from around the state."

To keep interest up requires a place to continue practicing and playing. For now, that's where facilities like Panama City Racquet Club come in.

"What we have here is our life, so we have to get this up and going for us, and for the community," Thomas Dobbins said. "We can't sit around and wait, so we're basically putting the fences up. We've come a long way in a short amount of time."

Soon after Michael, the USTA made its first trip out to the Dobbins' courts. The owners are confident in the sanctioning body's efforts to restore local tennis back to normal in due time.

"The USTA in the tennis world is everything," Dobbins added. "They're our support system. When we need help, they come to our rescue, Initially, they just showed up and showed that they were here to help. Brought us basic goods: tennis rackets to give to kids that need it that lost stuff, tennis shoes, windscreens--they brought two van loads full of things for us. We're now trying to disperse things to people that truly need it."

Anyone interested in donating can visit the USTA Florida website, https://ustaflhurricanerelief.funraise.org.

Following a second week of practice, preseason classics are scheduled to begin statewide on February 4th.