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Sorrowful Situation Strengthens Southerners

March 26, 2009 10:43 AM
A black patch in memoriam
Banded together in support of their tennis pro

By Carrie Rupp

For the women from Knoxville, Tenn., the week leading up to the 2008 USTA League presented by Chrysler 3.0 Senior National Championship should have been one of the most exciting times in their lives. After a five-year hiatus from the USTA League program, the women, many of whom have played together for 15-20 years at the Beaver Brook Country Club in Knoxville, decided to reform a team. It’s a good thing they did – in their first year back, they won their Sectional Championship in the hyper competitive USTA Southern section, punching their ticket to the National Championship.

Helping the women achieve their ultimate goal was Beaver Brook tennis pro Tommy Mozur, a 61-year-old former All-American at the University of Tennessee, who had been working with many of the women on the team for the last four years.

Last weekend, while many of the women were giddy with excitement, confirming travel plans and preparing for their trip to Las Vegas they received devastating news. Mozur, their beloved coach and mentor passed away while playing golf.

“Tommy was a man of few words, but what he said – he always made count,” team member Judy Mebane said. “At the funeral, Tommy’s friend and former doubles partner Turner Howard said, ‘Tommy Mozur was a fierce competitor, fair also, but always fierce. He was a natural athlete.’ And he was so right.”

With heavy hearts the women attended Mozur’s funeral on Wednesday – the day before they left for the National Championship.

To make matters worse, the team endured some major travel headaches. Carol McGhee, who traveled to Las Vegas with her husband on Wednesday, arrived to find the airline had lost her luggage.

Four of the team members: Mebane, Dawn Turner, Linda Cooper and Mary Jane Bailey, had an even bigger travel nightmare. With their first flight out of Knoxville departing 30 minutes late, the women’s connecting flight out of Atlanta got delayed because of mechanical problems. About three hours later, they were able to leave Atlanta. Arriving safely in Las Vegas, the women thought their travel woes were over – until they tried to pickup their rental car. The company’s computers were down, delaying the women two more hours. With the multitude of delay’s, Turner, the team’s captain was unable to attend the captain’s meeting. But like any united team would do, two of the team members, McGhee and Sandy Schonohoff were able to attend the meeting for her.

“It’s what team work is all about,” Turner said. “They were able to fill in, and everything worked out fine.”

As Turner, Mebane, Cooper and Bailey were finally piling into their rental car and heading for their hotel, they found a penny – upside down. At first they didn’t want to pick it up, but then they thought…after the week they’ve had, what could it hurt.

Although exhausted from their eventful day, and mentally drained from dealing with the death of a loved one, the women from Knoxville concentrated on the task ahead – winning their first match of the day, an early 7:30 a.m. match with USTA Pacific Northwest.

Dressed in orange tops and black skirts in celebration of Halloween and their beloved University of Tennessee Volunteers, the women donned black ribbons to honor the life of Mozur. After a team prayer, which they join together to do before every match, the women hit the court.

With the help of that upside down penny, the women won all three courts. It seems the tide may have changed at the right time for the women from Knoxville, and they believe Tommy Mozur may have given his two cents afterall…or at least, a penny.

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