When is platform tennis more like golf than it is regular tennis? When it comes to playing in a pro-am event. While most club tennis players would not imagine that they could ever be on a court – let alone play competitively – with the top-ranked tennis players in the world, amateur golfers have long had the opportunity to play in pro-ams before each PGA tournament with the likes of Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Jack Nicklaus. And since the golfers play their own ball and get handicap strokes, they can even make a close game of it against the pros.
Similarly, in platform tennis, pro-ams are becoming an increasing popular event at clubs across the nation. And like golf, club players, who can dig, lob and get the serve in, are finding that they too can hang with the best paddle players in the world. Well, as long as it’s pro and am versus pro and am.
A recent example of a pro-am occurred this past weekend, when Guga Goncalves, the head paddle pro at the Milbrook Club in Greenwich, CT, organized the club’s second annual pro-am event. For the event, Guga recruited some of the best area pros to mix it up with eight of his club members. Pros included nationally-ranked players such as the current National Champion Mark Parsons, the current National 45+ Champion Mike Gillespie, Patricio Misitrano, Brian O’Connor, and Marco Grangiero among others.
The pro-am featured a rotating partner format where each round, the club players were paired with a different pro and played 6 total games against another pro-am team. Players earned one point for each game won of the six. After 7 rounds of rotation, the top 4 point-getters on each of the pros and amateurs side qualified for the playoffs with the amateurs picking their pro playoff partner in order of their round-robin finish. The finals was an exciting, close match that eventually saw Mark Parsons and his partner, Tim Muldoon, defeat Brian O’Connor and Rich Greene in an 8-game pro-set 8-7 with the tiebreaker going 10-8. It was great paddle as seen on this video of one of the points from the finals.
If you have the opportunity to play in a paddle pro-am, by all means, jump at the chance. There are few other sports that let you mix it up with the top-ranked players in the world. Moreover, it’s fun and it can be a blast to be on the court and playing against the extraordinary shot-making. At the Milbrook event alone, there were cut overhead dropshots, a few “around the net posts” returns and even one Federer-sque between the legs, back to the court winner. However, like golf, if you hear “fore”, duck or get your paddle up because it’s probably the pro’s drive coming right at you.