Tennis community thrives

Published 9:26 am Saturday, July 4, 2009

The word community conjures up images of social networking Web sites, however, at Pelham Racquet Club, face to face community thrives.

The members don’t just play tennis. They have lunch, travel to tournaments and forge new friendships.

What is it about the racquet club that inspires relationships? The club’s elegant interior including a beautifully tiled fireplace, pro shop, spacious locker rooms and the dining area are certainly inviting.

Of course, the real action is outside where play on the 20 clay and five hard courts is constant and camaraderie and breezes fill the wrap-around main floor porch. Employees Chaney Mills and Jill Heape, along with tennis pros, groundskeepers and Pelham’s Parks and Recreation Director Billy Crandall, know everyone’s name and work to make each player’s experience enjoyable.

Recently, I spent a morning at the club watching Don McDougal, David Morgan, Johnny “Sonny” Jones and Bob Maxwell play doubles, while listening to them good–naturedly tease one another for missed shots. Watching the way they worked together to keep the ball in play defined skilled sportsmanship –– they made the game look easy.

Morgan, a retired University of Montevallo history professor, told me about the group.

“Don is the boss,” Morgan said. “We do what he tells us.”

Fellow player Don McDougal, who turned 80 on July 1, is a member of the Alabama Tennis Hall of Fame.

Morgan plays daily.

“We love the game of tennis, the exercise we get and being people we enjoy,” he said.

Morgan began playing tennis at 36 after coming to the UM from the state of Texas. A fellow faculty member taught him the game and Morgan began playing tennis competitively.

“I’ve played all over,” Morgan said. “And Pelham Racquet Club is one of the best tennis facilities anywhere.”

Pelham High School Counselor Amanda Waldrup plays regularly at the club.

“I’ve met so many nice people at the Racquet Club. The excellent quality of this facility draws people here,” she said.

Member Frank D’Alessandro said it best.

“There is a tremendous sense of community at the Pelham Racquet Club because they make every player of every skill level feel welcome,” he said.

Connie Nolen can be reached by e–mail at