Bernard Master Doubles Classic
Flower, Newman outlast heat, win title
Once they outlasted the heat, they took charge and secured a championship.
Upper Arlington resident Jim Flower and Bexley resident Neal Newman put forth a coordinated effort in taking the 55-and-over title in the Bernard Master Doubles Classic on July 8.
The two-day, hard-court event -- open to all United States Tennis Association members and featuring $6,000 in total prize money -- was held at the Elysium Tennis Club in Plain City.
Flower, a 55-year-old former Ohio State tennis captain, and Newman, a 63-year-old cancer survivor, won their championship with a 6-2, 6-1 victory over James Bosse of Dayton and John Peyton of Kettering.
Both Flower and Newman have maintained a high level of tennis through the years. Flower has played in numerous national tournaments and recently has had success playing with his daughters in national father-daughter events. Newman has won four world doubles championships and represented the U.S. in age-group events internationally.
"I thought we had all parts of our game working (in the title match)," Newman said. "Jim's lobs were good. We lobbed off returns ... and that worked out well. We got them back and we came forward."
The morning before, however, the pair dealt with 100-degree conditions while beating John Cochrane of Columbus and Phil Waid of Hilliard 6-4, 6-2.
"The weather was a little more cooperative today," Newman said July 8.
"We tried to spread them out a little bit," Flower added of the title match. "Neal was taking them out wide and I was trying to cross in the middle and picked up some good volleys there. And the points were a little shorter. We didn't have to run a lot."
Sitting courtside for the title matches July 8 was tournament founder Bernard Master. The 71-year-old former battalion surgeon in Vietnam oozes a passion for tennis.
"I thought it would be a good thing to do for central Ohio tennis," he said of his event sponsorship. "Tennis was sort of on the wane in the '70s and '80s and '90s and this was a way to keep it going. I thought it was the right thing to do, and besides, no one would let me stop.
"It's the oldest (doubles) tournament in Ohio. It's doubles-only because it's the way I learned how to play. I came back from Vietnam and needed a release. There was a lot of stress from the war."
Since its inception, the tournament not only has drawn some of the best players in central Ohio but representatives from 15 to 20 countries in addition to former state champions, college All-Americans, Davis Cup players and Olympians.
The event began in 1979 at Olympic Indoor Tennis Club in Clintonville before moving to Wickertree Tennis & Fitness in north Columbus in 2000. Master moved the competition to 4-year-old Elysium this year.
"We wanted to re-energize the tournament and it was a tremendous success," he said. "We had 28 teams overall -- about 10 more teams overall than we had last year -- and we had a women's division this year."
Niki Flower of Upper Arlington and Fidan Manashirova of Elk Grove, Calif., current Ohio State competitors, beat former Buckeyes players Kelsey Haviland of Dayton and Christina Keesey of Ostrander in the women's open division 6-4, 4-6, 10-5. Niki Flower is Jim Flower's daughter.
In the 35-and-over division, James Kaser of Toledo and Jerome Moenter of Lima defeated Leon Brenneman of Warsaw, Ind., and Andrew Streit of New Paris, Ind., 6-1, 6-1.
Kevin Metka, a Worthington Kilbourne High School graduate and current Ohio State player, along with Gabe Higgs-Horwell, a northwest Columbus resident and the professional at the Racquet Club of Columbus, secured the men's open division title with a 6-3, 7-5 win over Ben Hodgkiss-Lilly of Cleveland Heights and C.J. Allen Williams of Richmond, Va.
Because of low turnout, Elysium canceled the men's 45-and-over division.
"Hopefully the tournament will be at Elysium for years to come," said Arnie Jones, tournament director. "It has quite a reputation and draws from year to year quite an attraction of players."
High school and college players were not eligible for prize money, but college players could receive reimbursement for expenses.
Jones wants to see the event flourish even more next year.
"We hope to hang on to the 35s, 45s and 55s and hopefully next year we might bring the 65s back again," Jones said. "And if we can get four to six to eight teams then it's a lot of fun. And those guys are still awfully good players."