Pelham extends southern hospitality

Kristina, left, and Elaina LaBoone. (Contributed)

By CONNIE NOLEN / Community Columnist

“Laura is coming on Thursday!” reports Kristina LaBoone excitedly.

Sisters Kristina and Elaina LaBoone have grown up in Pelham playing tennis at both the Pelham Racquet Club and the Pelham Tennis Center.

Taking lessons and playing with their mom, Lori LaBoone, the girls are excited to welcome professional tennis player Laura Siegemund into their home again this year.

In fact, several Pelham families are welcoming visitors into their homes in conjunction with the upcoming Pelham Racquet Club Women’s Pro Circuit Challenger Tournament sponsored by the Rick and Bubba Show.

The LaBoones first met professional tennis player Laura Siegemund at the Pelham Racquet Club last year.

“The girls were finishing a lesson when Laura and I met. We had offered to house one of the players, and Laura was perfect for our family. Laura is from just outside of Stuttgart, Germany. I was a foreign exchange student in Germany, so I speak German. Laura fit right into our household,” LaBoone said.

While some players will fill nearby hotels, others still struggling to make a living on the tour stay with local families.

LaBoone said, “While these girls are trying to make it on the professional tour, they spend a lot more money than they make.

They play in tournaments constantly — and hotel bills add up.”

Providing housing for a professional tennis player actually turned out to be a lot of fun for the LaBoone family.

“We took Laura shopping; she watched television with us and we introduced her to the Percy Jackson book series. We had lots of fun together — and we went back and forth to the tennis courts,” LaBoone said.

Kristina and Elaina served as ball girls at the tournament so they saw some of Siegemund’s impressive matches.

Siegemund is one of Germany’s top 10 tennis players. She is ranked in the top 200 in the United States.

According to Pelham Racquet Club employee Chaney Mills, “Our members accommodate all of the pro players looking for housing every year.”

Pelham Racquet Club members serve as cooks for the tournament, too. Dividing into cooking teams, members compete to see which team can raise the most money.

Qualifying begins Sunday, March 27, with the tournament continuing through Sunday, April 3.

All events are free to the public including Kids’ Night on Thursday, March 31.

Connie Nolen can be reached by e–mail at CNolen@Shelbyed.k12.al.us.