Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Pro-Am to kick off Legg Mason tennis weekend

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Every tennis player wonders, at one time or another, how they would match up against the pros. Would they get a couple points? Pull off a few games?

Well, on July 29, area tennis players will have the opportunity to find out at the Seventh-Annual Urban Leadership Development Group Jason Reyner Pro-Am at the Regency Sport and Health Club in McLean, Va.

The pro-am is part of a tennis festivities-filled day benefiting the ULDG, co-founded by 17-year Bullis boys tennis coach and Mid-Atlantic Hall of Famer Jack Schore and tennis legend Arthur Ashe. It serves as a kickoff for the ATP Tour’s Legg Mason Tennis Classic at the William H.G. Fitzgerald Tennis Center in Washington, D.C., July 30-Aug. 5.

The pro-am will pit amateur tennis players, juniors and adults against one other in a round-robin doubles format. ATP Tour players will rotate in to play four games with each amateur — the exact list of professionals won’t be solidified until closer to the tournament, but pat participants include Potomac native Paul Goldstein, former top-20 player and 1992 U.S. Open doubles champion Richey Reneberg and world No.9 James Blake.

‘‘The kids playing in the pro-am, they see it’s a whole different world out there on the professional tour,” Schore said. ‘‘They’re actually playing alongside these professionals. It’s a wakeup call to kind of let them know how good these players really are and what they need to do to get there. And they never forget this opportunity. I have people who participated in the first one seven years ago who are still talking about it.”

The two amateurs with the most games at the end of three hours will have the opportunity to play a set against the world’s top-ranked doubles team, American twin brothers Mike and Bob Bryan.

Afterward, the Bryan Brothers will set down their rackets and hit the stage with their band to rock out at the United States Tennis Association Classic Kick-OFF Party. The day’s events also include a doubles clinic with the Bryan brothers’ father and coach Wayne Bryan, as well as a silent auction, featuring a variety of prestigious items and tennis memorabilia.

‘‘It’s nice to have this party, with the Bryan brothers’ band playing,” Schore said. ‘‘Everyone gets to see these professional players are human beings. They talk about their experiences; the kids ask what it’s like to be a professional. They’re right there.”

This spring, Schore led Bullis to its fourth-consecutive Interstate Athletic Conference title and a third-place finish at the National High School Coaches Association Tennis Invitational high-school nationals. He co-founded the ULDG with Ashe 16 years ago. The program provides a scholarship fund for underprivileged student-athletes to attend Bullis.

The organization’s goal is to provide inner-city youth with the means to develop strong leaderships skills, to realize and pursue their dreams. Last year’s event raised more than $20,000 for the organization.

Schore teams with the Washington Tennis and Education Foundation and Southeast Tennis and Learning Center, among other local organizations, to pinpoint the top prospects for his fund.

‘‘We’re looking for someone who’s scholastically able, and is also a decent tennis player,” Schore said. ‘‘Those two go hand-in-hand. Usually scholastics come ahead. We don’t go for the best player, but someone who has those capabilities. Generally, they become very good leaders. What we develop in the end is good leadership.”

Schore’s organization has funded two Bullis graduates. Damissa Robinson went on to graduate from Clemson University in 2004 on the dean’s list, after four successful years on a full tennis scholarship. Ronald Kamdem graduated Bullis in 2006 and just wrapped up his freshman year at Harvard.

Schore has four student-athletes in the program right now, including rising sophomore Taylor Hairston and rising junior Alvin Fludd, both key components of Bullis’ success this year. Fludd teamed with senior Brian Lee to win the season-ending Ben Johns title at No. 2 doubles and Hairston won in the No. 4 singles slot.

This year, Schore will achieve his long-term goal of instating four new students into the program, one in each grade. He said he hopes now he can grow the program throughout the Mid-Atlantic area and possibly the country.

Next Sunday will be a tennis player’s heaven, and it benefits a good cause. And what better way to kick off the D.C. area’s only ATP Tour stop than a good party?

‘‘I think it’ll spark interest for the tournament,” Schore said. ‘‘The whole thing is unique. You’ve got the Bryan brothers playing in their band, tennis players hanging out. It’s probably the biggest tennis event in Washington, just a full-out great party.”