WSMRA Annual Women’s Senior/Masters Tournament Begins New Decade in St. Louis!
By Kendra Tutsch, WSMRA President
“Meet Me in St. Louis” was the theme of the Women's Senior/Masters Racquetball Association's 31st annual event held January 17-19, 2020, at Vetta Racquet Sports - Concord. St. Louis was a great location to begin the fourth decade of this tournament, since in 1993 at the 4th Annual event in St. Louis, the WSMRA was formed as an organization to carry on the tournament and promote racquetball as the sport for a lifetime.
Tournament Director Shari Coplen had a wonderful treat in store for players arriving early: a Thursday morning tour showcasing many highlights of St. Louis. Shari made sure players saw everything from the famous St. Louis Gateway Arch and Budweiser Farms to the many beautifully restored Victorian houses and a drive through lovely Forest Park, site of the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition (St. Louis World’s Fair) where many structures including the Art Museum remain. The grand finale was a visit to the St. Louis Cathedral with its gorgeous collection of mosaics, the largest outside of Russia. Snacks were provided featuring local favorites Fitz’s Root Beer and Ted Drewes Frozen Custard.
On Thursday afternoon the tournament kicked off with the traditional “fun doubles” to benefit breast cancer research. This is a yearly tradition that gives players a chance to check out the courts and facilities, and this year several local high school players joined us on the courts. The players are always generous with their contributions and over $370 was raised for breast cancer awareness and research, thanks to the efforts of Nidia Funes who runs this event so well each year.
Following the fun doubles, players checked in and received their tournament gift bags: Gearbox backpacks from Pinchshot owners Brian Shaw and Nancy Davis stuffed with many local products including playing cards featuring the St. Louis Gateway Arch; chocolate bars from Crown Candy Kitchens; Tums (who knew they made tums in St. Louis?); headbands courtesy of “Court Diva” Joanna Reyes; and a welcome packet with a letter from the Mayor of St. Louis. While players enjoyed snacks and drinks, Shari and WSMRA Tournament Committee Chair Terry Rogers went over the format, rules, and procedures. Players received their awesome tournament hoodie jackets and the group picture was taken directly after check-in while everyone was at the club.
Friday morning the tournament kicked off with round robin play in singles and doubles for the 45 players from 23 states and Guatemala (yes, this is truly an international event!). A first for the WSMRA, Cindy Tilbury arranged to live stream some of the matches, and we had over 5000 views during the weekend! Skill level doubles were offered, and many players chose to play two doubles divisions, or one singles and one doubles. This meant that a few intrepid players had 12 or more matches over 2-1/2 days!
It takes a lot to fuel these ladies, and Shari made sure that the food served all weekend featured delicious local specialties. A real hit was the “Gooey Louie” butter cake.
The players also had time to check out the silent auction, organized every year by auction specialist Carol Gellman and including many donated items including equipment from Head and Gearbox, candy, art items, and entries to tournaments from the NMRA and World Seniors. This annual event raises money for the WSMRA and an additional worthy cause. This year it went to support Missouri High School Racquetball, to help grow the sport. Over $500 was raised, thanks to the many donors and bidders!
The Saturday night banquet is a highlight of the weekend, and Shari Coplen outdid herself with a beach theme complete with palm trees, flamingo lights, and leis for everyone! Bar-B-Q from Pappy’s Smokehouse, along with other local favorites, ensured a delicious dining experience.
The program started with a moment of silence to remember all the friends who we lost in the last year, including long-time WSMRA player and inspiration Lola Markus and her husband Ray, a true supporter of women’s racquetball.
WSMRA Chair Kendra Tutsch presented a gift bag of Wisconsin goodies to Tournament Director Shari Coplen for her incredible efforts to make the tournament a fun experience for all. Special thanks also went out to Doug Ganim and Ben Simons of Penn/Head, the WSMRA ball sponsor, for their valued support in the past few years; to Dan Whitley and his staff at Vetta Sports for a great tournament experience; and to Joanna Reyes for donations and assistance with the jackets. Many of the individuals and volunteers were recognized with the amazing Baraboo Candy Company “cow pie” and Wisconsin maple syrup.
Recognition and thanks also go to:
The WSMRA Board members who keep the organization moving forward: Terry Rogers, Merijean Kelley, Paula Sperling, Cindy Tilbury, and Linda Moore (and Jean Halahan who could not attend)along with advisors Nancy Kronenfeld and Jane Snyder.
The local tournament committee of Shari Coplen, Ann Fingerhood, Nancy Davis, and Karen Stephens, as well as the Missouri High School Players who helped out all weekend. Karen deserves special mention for manning the tournament desk virtually all weekend!
The players who come back every year and along with playing, work hard to make the tournament a success: Carol Gellman, who organizes the Silent Auction; Nidia Funes who runs the fun doubles; Pat Meyer and Marie Gomar who lend a hand wherever it is needed.
Also, Eddie Myers for taking photos and helping out all weekend, and to Joe Williams for driving the shuttle.
Three players joined the “25” year club, having attended 25 or more tournaments over the years: Renee Fish, Linda Moore, and Marquita Molina.
The players who came the furthest were from the San Francisco Bay area, though of course Marie Gomar from Guatemala deserves a special award because her actual travel plans take the most effort.
Special mention goes to Marie for founding the Tracks project in Guatemala that teaches life skills to at-risk children through the sport of racquetball. She related that thanks to past fundraising efforts from our silent auction, the program is currently self-sustaining!
After the banquet program, Shari organized several trivia contests and a joke contest (won by Mildred Gwinn, but we can’t repeat it here). Many great prizes were given out while the players relaxed and plotted strategy for the final matches on Sunday morning. The last announcement of the night was met with much enthusiasm - the 32nd Annual Women’s Senior/Masters tournament is currently in the planning stages for Atlanta, January 15-17, 2021!
On Sunday morning play wrapped up and top finishers were presented with lovely cutting boards imprinted with the tournament logo. Find more information on our web site wsmra.com and the Women’s Senior/Masters Racquetball Association Facebook page.
Tournament Winners by Division
35 – Tracy Bucholz (MO)
40 – Susan Caillier (IL)
45 – Jenniffer Hunter (TN)
50 – Marie Gomar (Guatemala)
55 – Amy Pivovar (NE)
60 – Cindy Tilbury (CA)
65 – Marsha Berry (KY)
70 – Cheryl Conrad (IA)
75 – Mildred Gwinn (NC)
45 B/C – Cheryl Miller (OH)
55 B/C – Jill Hitt (OH)
65 B/C – Patricia Meyer (NY)
Open/A – Lori Southwick/Page Kern (MN)
45 – Victoria Pickard/Lori Southwick (PA/MN)
55 – Ann Fingerhood/Page Kern (MO/MN)
65 – Lynette Froehlich/Marsha Berry (SC/KY)
75 – Mildred Gwinn/Marquita Molina (NC/CA)
View results at: https://www.r2sports.com/tourney/viewResults.asp?TID=31207