Dudley Bearden and George “Juddie” Boyd have plenty of stories to tell.
Many of their memories center around the development, rise, fall, and revitalization of the Magnolia Tennis Club in Columbus.
Seated above the 12 courts with their wives, Marlies, and June, the men trade stories about their years of playing in tournaments in the city and throughout the Southeast. They can remember how and when the club started and when it first served as host for the United States Tennis Association (USTA) 65 and Over State tournament. With the tournament back for its second-consecutive year at the club, the Beardens and the Boyd take immense pride in doing things the right way and organizing a first-class event. On Thursday, they talked about plans to do it again this weekend for 43 teams and more than 400 people who will invade the Golden Triangle to take part in the annual event for senior players.
“The main thing to me is we have made friends,” said George Boyd, who is more apt to be recognized by his nickname. “You may see them twice a year if you play in a lot of tournaments, but you make a lot of friends playing in these tournaments. I love for people to come here and get a good feeling that they have gone to a place that cared about them, wanted them to have a good time, and were nice and friendly to you.”
Marlies Bearden said the club has more than 75 volunteers and 20 committee heads to take care of all of the details that go into making a tournament run smoothly. All four praised the efforts of club professional Billy “Gip” Clark for his work in preparing the clay courts for a busy weekend.
If you scan the upstairs area, it’s easy to see plenty of work has been done. There are hundreds of goodie bags scattered on the floor ready that will be given to players in the tournament. A dinner for the competitors will be tonight to help kick off a weekend’s worth of action that is open to the public.
Those who come to watch might even hear a story or two, maybe even one told by Bearden or Boyd. Bearden said he already has stocked the beverage cart so players will have plenty to drink. When the players and spectators sit down, they are apt to be regaled with a tale or two that, according to Bearden, might have gotten a little longer and a little exaggerated. Things like that happen as years pass, though, as does the sting of a loss or a call made by a competitor.
But the competition is just part of what makes the weekend such an attraction. “Juddie” Boyd praised the efforts of the women in the club for their work in preparing the club.
“I guarantee you the women have done 90 percent of the work,” Boyd said.
Bearden said the club couldn’t put on an event of this magnitude without the assistance of the volunteers or the help of the 19 local businesses, including the Columbus Convention and Visitor’s Bureau. He said the tournament is a special event, just like Columbus’ annual Pilgrimage, which offers tours of the city’s antebellum mansions and features recreated activities of the 1800s, complete with period costumes. Bearden said the only costumes the tennis players will put on are shorts and T-shirts when they take the courts. Aside from that, the Beardens, the Boyds, and the rest of the club members and volunteers are ready to do their part to make the annual tournament a renewed source of pride for everyone in the city.
“It makes us dress up and clean up the club,” Bearden said. “The ladies get out and trim all off the bushes and we get it all spruced up. It is good for us to fix our wind breaks and spruce it up.
“I have been at a lot of tournaments — maybe not as many as Juddie — but, to me, I have never seen as hospitable as this tennis tournament. We take a lot of pride in our hospitality, and we are upset if someone gets upset or out of whack.”
Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino on Twitter @ctsportseditor
Adam Minichino is the former Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.