Florence’s only professional tennis tournament, now in its third year, has a new title sponsor, McLeod Health, and a new name — the McLeod for Health Florence Open. The event is set for October 11-19 at the Eddie Floyd Tennis Center.
Earlier it was announced that the tournament had formed an alliance with Susan G. Komen Lowcountry to help support the fight against breast cancer in the Pee Dee Region. McLeod Health spokesperson Jumana Swindler noted that the partnership between McLeod, the Florence Open, and Komen is a perfect arrangement.
"McLeod Health is deeply committed to the early identification and treatment of cancer in all its forms, and Komen Lowcountry provides very generous grant funding to help us with breast cancer awareness. Our support for this event will also help us stress the important health benefits that come from regular physical activity. We see this as another opportunity to contribute directly to the health of the people we serve," said Swindler.
The week-long McLeod for Health Florence Open will draw some of the best young professional players from around the world to compete for $25,000 in prize money and higher rankings. Net profits from the event will go to Komen Lowcountry, which serves a 17 county region that includes Florence and the rest of the Pee Dee counties. For several years, Komen Lowcountry has provided major grants to McLeod Regional Medical Center to support mammograms, follow-up diagnostic procedures, patient navigation services, and survivor support services, including transportation and child care.
With approximately 70 tournaments held annually throughout the country, the US Tennis Association Pro Circuit is the pathway to the US Open and tour-level competition for aspiring tennis players and a frequent battleground for established professionals. The largest developmental tennis circuit in the world, it draws more than 1,000 men and women each year from more than 70 countries to compete in cities nationwide. Established pros like Maria Sharapova and Carolyne Wozniacki began their careers on the USTA Pro Circuit, and so did some of the sport’s top new players like Americans Sloane Stephens and Christina McHale. Taylor Townsend, who was the first American to hold the junior girls world number 1 spot since 1982 and is a Florence Open alum, recently faced Serena Williams in the first round of this year’s US Open.
Florence, one of the smallest cities on the circuit, was selected to host an event because of its world-class courts, its strong volunteer base, and the generosity of its sponsors. This nine day tournament puts us on the world tennis map and generates significant tourism revenues for our community.
The Florence Open will feature two days qualifying rounds, a 32 player main draw, and a pro-am event. The week’s events will be organized and managed by a Tournament Steering Committee that includes City Parks and Recreation Department Director Darlene Buchanan, City Tennis Director Rob Hill, and a number of Florence Tennis Association volunteers. FTA President Ernie James said that the FTA already has volunteer committees working on marketing, fund raising, identifying host families and other volunteers, and developing community activities and social events to add more spice to the tournament week.
According to Hill, who will serve as Tournament Director, "the goals are to bring world class tennis to Florence, to create a genuine community event that emphasizes health, fitness, and breast cancer awareness, and to raise funds that will enable us to make a significant donation to an excellent cause. This will be great tennis for a great cause."
One highlight will be the Community Day on Saturday morning, October 11, which will feature a 5K Walk/Run to honor cancer survivors, exercises and introductory tennis lessons for adults and children, a wheelchair tennis demonstration, music and refreshments. There will also be opening and closing ceremonies, a pro-am tournament, and many other activities. Admission will be free, but attendees will be offered the opportunity to donate on site to help support Komen Lowcountry.