Celebrate 30 Years of Tennis
Erin Maher | November 16, 2017
For the past 30 years, 300 women from across the country have gathered annually to battle it out at the USTA National Senior Women's Intersectional Team Championships, with each section -- as many as 15 sections per year -- sending their very best to compete for titles in the following divisions: Women’s 35, Women’s 45, Women’s 55, Women’s 65, Women’s 75 and Women’s 80.
The competition gives women, who would not normally meet to compete, the opportunity to connect on court. The level of competition is among the best in the country, attracting players like Donna Floyd-Fales, former U.S. Fed Cup team captain and champion, who currently competes in the Women’s 75 division.
The Intersectional Championships are the brainchild of former National Senior Women’s Tennis Association President Carol Wood. ADVERTISEMENT A longtime player, Wood had enjoyed competing in the Pauline Betz Addie Cup, a tournament that began in 1981 and had four different USTA women’s sections teams play one another. As Wood and her fellow players soon began to age out of the tournament, she saw the necessity in keeping competitive senior women’s team play alive.
“All these players are getting older,” Wood said. “I decided to get in touch with the Sears Cup players and organize something to get us all playing.”
So Wood did just that, reaching out to the teams in the Sears Cup, a senior women’s team event similar to the Pauline Betz Addie Cup but that had four teams different than those that competed in the Pauline Betz Addie. They incorporated the idea of each section fielding a team in a variety of different age brackets, all competing for sectional superiority, and from there, the Intersectional Championships were born.
The first Intersectionals featured play in the Women’s 35 and 45 divisions and took place in Virginia Beach, Va., in September 1987. It featured 123 players from 11 sections.
The tournament has since expanded to include the 55, 65, 75 and 80 events, and has grown to have as many as 300-plus players from up to 15 USTA sections compete annually, making it the largest senior women’s tennis event in the U.S. For the past few years, the tournament has been held in an alternating rotation between Boca Raton, Fla., and San Antonio. With the change of location also comes the change of surface, with the tournament being held on clay in Florida and on a hard court in Texas.
The format of the tournament varies for each division. The Women’s 35, 45, 55 and 65 divisions are comprised of three singles and two doubles matches, while the Women’s 75s has two singles and two doubles matches and the Women's 80s has one singles match and two doubles matches. The teams compete in a round-robin flight into knockout play.
Much of the credit to building the event through the years goes to Larry Eichenbaum, the Intersectional Championships referee for the last 25 years.
In 1992, Wood approached Eichenbaum, asking to see if the Intersectionals could be held at the Walden on Lake Conroe Club in Conroe, Texas. Since then, Eichenbaum, who is a certified official, has been the mastermind behind running the event. Until the first day of play, Eichenbaum serves as the tournament director, figuring out the logistics and taking care of administrative duties. The day before play commences, Eichenbaum switches gears and puts on his referee hat, which has him taking care of the play scheduling and attending to the players’ needs.
Now, after 25 years on the job, Eichenbaum is hanging up both his referee and tournament director’s hats, and retiring.
“I personally would rather give a party then go to a party," Eichenbaum said. “This event is basically a week-long party that I hosted. If they had a good time, I’ve done a good job.”
Next year, the Intersectional Championships will be taking place in Phoenix.
For more information on the USTA National Senior Women's Intersectional Team Championships, click here.