Players and guests mingled at a celebration of the history of the tournament.
Tennis players, guests and tournament royalty gathered at the Longboat Key Public Tennis Center on Jan. 9 to kick off the Observer Challenge's 20th iteration.
Harry's Continental Kitchens catered the event, and attendees happily snacked as they caught up with old friends and checked the massive tournament bracket for their match-ups. On Thursday, all were friends, but when tournament play begins in full swing on Friday, the same may not be said.
"Tonight's a great night and we're all friends tonight," tennis pro and center manager Kay Thayer said. "I know tomorrow it will be different."
In addition to the happy reunions, Thayer was recognized for her 20 years with the tennis center in a short, surprise ceremony. Observer Media Group CEO Matt Walsh presented Thayer with a glass award for her longtime work, speaking to her accomplishments.
"I've never seen Kay get unglued," Walsh said. "We can't do it without Kay."
After Thayer graciously accepted the recognition, she turned it back around.
"Back at you, mister," Thayer said, before presenting Walsh with a surprise commemoration of her own.
"[Matt] has always been there to support with this tournament," Thayer said. "He's why we can do things like this."