T. Beckley Junior Tennis Open returns bigger than ever

MUSCATINE, Iowa–July 9 through 11, the T. Beckley Junior Tennis Open returned to Muscatine for the first time since 2019. Always a popular event for young tennis players between the ages of 12 and 18, this year’s tournament drew 61 total participants, well above the tournament’s previous record. “It was a really good turnout this year–it was about double two years ago,” observed tournament organizer Cindy Klebe.

Put on by the Great River Tennis Association, the T. Beckley Junior Tennis Open welcomes players from Muscatine County and beyond to test their skills against others in their age bracket. This year’s tournament featured both singles and doubles events for both boys and girls in all age groups for a total of 100 matches.

After COVID-19 concerns canceled last year’s tournament, Klebe found players more eager to compete than ever. “Kids were just itching to play, and a lot of people told me it was their first tournament,” she reported. This year’s participants included three players from Muscatine, Sam Emmert, Ryan Kirkpatrick, and Noah Zobel. As an incentive to draw in more new players in future years, tournament organizers raffled off a tennis bag stocked with a tennis towel, water bottle, and a kids racket with a message to share it with a younger friend who might like to try out tennis for themselves.

To accommodate all the players, the tournament began outdoors July 9 at both the Muscatine High School and Weed Park tennis courts. Because organizers had concerns about the weather, they held the largest boys and girls events first. However, Friday proved an excellent day for them, with play running from noon to 5 p.m. “We were nervous about the weather, but the weather was beautiful for us Friday,” Klebe shared.

However, conditions on Saturday proved more challenging. Because of persistent rain, organizers chose to move the tournament indoors to the North Doge Athletic Club in Iowa City. Though the change proved stressful, it allowed the tournament to continue from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday and from 8 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. Sunday, allowing each distinct event to name a winner. In preparation for next year’s tournament, Klebe and other organizers have already begun looking into better ways to communicate location changes due to weather. “Fortunately, all our volunteers stepped up to get all the matches done,” said Klebe.

Each year, numerous volunteers help out at the T. Beckley Junior Tennis Open to make sure it runs smoothly. This year, 12 volunteers stepped up, making it possible for so many kids to participate in spite of difficult weather conditions. Due to the tight knit nature of Muscatine’s tennis community, the majority of the volunteers belong to the Great River Tennis Association. “All of them are from Muscatine and all of them are tennis players, parents of players, or take lessons themselves, Klebe elaborated.

Generous local donors also help make this tournament possible year in and year out. A posthumous gift from T. Beckley not only gives the junior open its name but also helps cover much of its annual expenses. Donations of $100 gift cards from Hy-Vee and Walmart, goody bags filled with safety items from the Corps of Engineers, and one free portable toilet rental from the Outhouse in Blue Grass also helped make the event a success.