Tennis tournament hosts players across southeast after Florence forces change

Tennis tournament hosts players across southeast after Florence forces change

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - What is now Tropical Storm Florence foiled any plans for Hughes and her team from North Georgia to compete in the tournament for players 55 +up?

As what appeared then as Hurricane Florence inched closer and closer to North Carolina, where the tournament was originally scheduled to start.

The USTA was forced to change location, from Asheville, NC, to Columbus, and once Columbus' Regional Tennis Association offered to host players at the Cooper Creek Tennis Facility, dozens of athletes got to compete in the end, and spend a sunny weekend in the Fountain City.

"We were pumped, excited," said athlete Karo Hughes before the start of the US Tennis Association's Southern Sectionals Tournament.

Hughes says, "Watching the storm every day, like everybody else, and when we saw...we kind of anticipated it possibly wasn't going to happen."

Kira Skill and five of her teammates from Charlotte, NC, made it to the tournament, but could not field a full roster this year. Winning in Sectionals would mean earning a shot at a national league championship, but for these athletes, it's about fellowship and enjoying the game as a team.

"The organizers did a great job moving it from Asheville to here," said Kira Skill, "it was amazing how quickly they rallied."

A quick turnaround for USTA and CORTA to set the tournament in Columbus ultimately means filling hotel rooms and seats at local restaurants.

"We were not going to let that deter us," said Mary Ann Bruce, a member of the Charlotte team. "Our thoughts and prayers are with everybody negatively impacted."

It's a small boom for the economy, and according to Visit Columbus CEO Peter Bowden, an opportunity to leave a great impression with these guests.

"Georgia is known for hospitality," Bowden said, "and that is what we are going to show them so they can enjoy themselves no matter where they land."

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