When you look up and down the 2019 men’s and women’s USTA Competitive Pathway events calendars on the USTA.com website, it’s surprising to see only one $50,000-level USTA Pro Circuit event or higher taking place this year in all of Southern California.
Diehard local tennis fans will recall years ago when Andre Agassi was on his comeback tour in the mid-1990s and beat Armenian fan-favorite Sargis Sargsian in the Burbank Challenger final. Or remember watching newly turned pros Mike and Bob Bryan, Sam Querrey and Donald Young play in front of enthusiastic crowds at the Calabasas Challenger. Or wondering who this talented Japanese player Kei Nishikori was on his way to winning the Carson Challenger. The women have had similar events in Carson and in Rancho Santa Fe and at other stops.
One of the farthest points north on the USTA Southern California Section map located in the northern part of San Luis Obispo County sits the Templeton Tennis Ranch, a four-year-old facility whose eager and tennis-loving founder and owner Ralph Goehring was interested in bringing an upper-level professional tournament to the Central Coast soon after the club opened.
“We knew the high quality level of play that takes place at these events,” Goehring said. “We thought it would be a way to market our club, but also to give back to the community. People come to visit the Paso Robles area for the wine and the restaurants and the leisure. We want our little area to also be known for the world-class tennis tournament we host each September.”
The third annual Central Coast Pro Tennis Open will be held Sept. 23-29 at the Templeton Tennis Ranch, located just three miles south of Paso Robles off the U.S. Highway 101.
Goehring echoes the thoughts of dozens of other tennis club owners and directors from Southern California who have struggled to keep these events at their facilities over the years.
“It can be a struggle year in and year out to keep up with the expenses that are needed to run a $60,000-level event like ours,” Goehring said. “It’s so important to attract and retain the sponsors needed to host a Pro Circuit event.”
That’s why this year Goehring decided to do something different. A few months back he received a call from Scott Mitchell, who is the Executive Director of Tennis/CEO of Premier Tennis Consulting and sits on the USTA Pro Circuit Chair National Committee. Mitchell offered his help in a consulting role.
Mitchell knows first-hand what it takes to run a successful USTA Pro Circuit event as he has been in charge of the USTA Women’s $100,000 Dow Classic in Midland, Mich., the last few years. The tournament is the crown jewel of the USTA Pro Circuit and one Mitchell calls a “bench-mark” tournament because of the way the community supports the event and the amount of sponsors and revenue generated.
“We want to put some of the same systems in place in Templeton as we’ve done in Midland, Savannah and several other tournaments around the country,” Mitchell said. “Sometimes it’s just about man-power, and how much can a tennis facility and the staff really do? But we want to engage some potential sponsors this year in hopes of securing some for future events. I believe what you will see over the next few years in Templeton is an exciting community event with a variety of activities, with tennis being the focal point.”
Southern California needs more professional tennis like the women’s pro tournament in Templeton, which calls the USTA Southern California Section among its major sponsors. Tournaments like these can be highly inspirational for the next generation of players. Current WTA World Tour Top-20 ranked Sofia Kenin, former junior Grand Slam winner Taylor Townsend and NCAA singles champion Jaime Loeb are counted among the Templeton alumni. In two weeks, former Wimbledon finalist Genie Bouchard is expected to be the top-seeded player at the Central Coast Pro Tennis Open.
Just last week, Oracle announced the creation of the Oracle Pro Series, a schedule of more than 25 new ATP, WTA and ITF World Tennis Tour professional tournaments to be held across the United States over the course of 2019 and 2020. The Oracle Pro Series will create more than 40 percent new playing opportunities in the U.S. for tennis professionals. Nearly all the tournaments will be combined men’s and women’s events with equal prize money ranging from $25,000 to $108,000 per tournament.
On Oct. 6-13 the Claremont Club will host a $25,000 Oracle tournament and Nov. 4-10 the tour moves through Malibu and will be played at Pepperdine University. The final schedule for 2020 will include more than 20 tournaments, most of which will be combined men’s and women’s events. Locations will be announced later this year.
Goehring said he’s determined to see his Templeton event succeed, and said it’s a great opportunity for all of Southern California to drive up to the Central Coast and visit the area and take in some world-class tennis.
“We find we really have to educate the public on what this is,” Goehring said. “You say pro tennis tournament and some just think it’s for top local players. But these are the future stars of tomorrow, and you really get to see these players’ close-up before they hit it big.”