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Column: Fiesta Bowl, and this week's Yavapai ribbon cutting ceremony

It takes a lot of planning, volunteers, a couple large tennis facilities and much dedication to pull of running the Fiesta Bowl Scottsdale Senior Open each year, but Alice Hing and her staff do it with style and grace.

The tournament (since its inception 40-plus years ago) is held at the Scottsdale Athletic Club on Indian Bend Road in Scottsdale. Overflow matches are sent to Indian School Park to help make this fun event run efficiently. This year there were 272 players involved in 53 events comprised of singles, doubles and mixed categories. Each classification is within a five-year age group - 30's, 35's, 40's ... up to 90's if there are enough to make a draw possible. All comers play one another, no matter their ability level, thus it is call an "open" USTA sanctioned national event that is recorded for rankings at each age division.

Twenty-six states were represented this year and 13 of the players were from Northern Arizona.

Sedona area: Bruce Cassella, Claudette Laliberte and Chris Armstrong. Prescott area: Ed Free, Jan Hasse, David Hibbs, Fay Matsumoto, Dick McGaw, Cheryl Murrieta, Ron Samuelson, Penny Thomas, Beth Kaper and myself.

Many of these players are former top high school or college players, or are teaching professionals, some even ATP and WTA ranked, with a few having played in Grand Slam events in the past. It's top-notch tennis, fun to watch and fun to participate in if you fit the bill.

This tier 2 tournament ran Dec. 3-7 and had to be prepared for rain delays, umpiring, draws, accommodations, prizes, a players party, T-shirts, balls, applications, collecting fees and keeping the players comfortable and happy. It's not for the meek and mild to organize.

The cost to get in a national as such is $54. 25 for singles and $87 per doubles team. Out of those fees you're paying for everything it takes to pull an event like this off. Some tournament directors get some sponsors as well to help offset some of the many expenses.

An event like this is a quite the boon for local hotels, eateries, stores, airlines, car rental agencies, sporting good stores and gas stations. Many of the players get to town early to prepare and leave the day after the tournament ends.

For example, for the 272 players that are in the draw, each probably averaged spending $300 to $2,000 each. That's a nice boost to local coffers.

The Northern Arizona Senior Fiesta Bowl National finalist results for 2014 include:

1. Women's 65 Singles Champion: Jan Hasse

2. Men's 70 Doubles Finalists: Dick McGaw/John Davis

3. Women's 45 Doubles Champions: Beth Kaper/Kristin Fudalla

4. Women's 60 Doubles Finalists: Fay Matsumoto/Jan Hasse

5. Mixed 45 Doubles Finalists: Beth Kaper/Chris Howard

6. Mixed 60 Doubles Finalists: Dick McGaw/Jan Hasse

Many of you may not be ready to play on an open national level, but hopefully you'll participate in the 2015 tennis events that will be out soon.

They'll cover one-day Grand Prix's in singles, doubles and mixed levels of play, NTRP leveled tournaments, a summer sanctioned Open/NTRP tournament, USTA Leagues, play groups at your level and then there's regular Drop-In-Tennis for anyone who shows up to play.

We practice our shots to get ready to play. We play to see how good we are and what we still need to improve. It's a vicious circle of great fun.

And on that note, let me mention that this coming Thursday, Dec. 11, there will be an official Ribbon Cutting Ceremony for the new Yavapai College Tennis Facility held on the stadium court at 10:30 a.m. We'd like all tennis players to attend, former and present. There will be a few dignitaries and some pats on the back for seeing this project through. Please be there if your schedule allows it, then stick around and play some tennis.

It's all about playing that makes the difference in your life, physically and socially. Find a program that works for you and jump in today.

Chris Howard is a local USPTA Tennis Professional with over 40 years in the racquet and fitness industry. He can be reached at 928-642-6775 or choward4541@a.com.

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