This week, tennis is a bigger deal than usual on Longboat Key.
Even with some cooler weather, spectators are gathering for the 20th Annual Senior Men’s United States Tennis Association Tournament.
The USTA-sanctioned tournament kicked off on Nov. 27 and will be played until Dec. 3 across the Key. It is a Senior Clay Court Category II tournament.
Many of the matches will take place at the Longboat Key Tennis Center, but because of the number of matches there will be seven other sites used, including the Longboat Key Tennis Gardens, Club Longboat, Cedars Tennis Resort and the Water Club.
Matches begin at 8 a.m. daily. Singles and doubles matches are being played in age categories from 55 to 85 years old.
Committee chair for the tournament, Rick McGrath, said the Longboat Key tournament is one of the three “Triple Crown” tennis tournaments in Florida. The others are tournaments held in St. Petersburg and Naples.
It was originally founded by residents Dick and Donna Schlorf.
In 2022, the tournament hosted 309 players from all over the country, according to the tournament’s brochure.
Chuck Kaplan played one of the first matches on the opening day, in the 65 and over singles bracket. Coming from Atlanta, this was his third year in a row playing in the Longboat Key tournament.
But, he ended up losing against Steve Garman, who Kaplan said was a strong opponent.
More than anything, Kaplan said he appreciates the good sportsmanship and spirit of the tournament.
“I just like being on the court with great people. It's their strategy and all of that, but just being out here with somebody that’s a good person. It's that camaraderie,” Kaplan said. “In our age group, you got to have fun. And when somebody gets hurt, we all take care of each other.”
At the tennis center, coffee, sandwiches, snacks and other beverages are provided for registered players and to spectators at a price.
The finals for the tournament will be held on Saturday, Dec. 2 and Sunday, Dec. 3. For more information, visit the Facebook page Longboat Key Tennis or the tournament website at LBKSuperSr.com.
Carter Weinhofer is the Longboat Key news reporter for the Observer. Originally from a small town in Pennsylvania, he moved to St. Petersburg to attend Eckerd College until graduating in 2023. During his entire undergraduate career, he worked at the student newspaper, The Current, holding positions from science reporter to editor-in-chief.