08/01/10 — Coggins: Snow Hill undoubtedly a 'winner'

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Coggins: Snow Hill undoubtedly a 'winner'

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on August 1, 2010 1:50 AM

A sleepy little town surrounded by sweet potato and tobacco fields in the heart of Greene County, you'd hardly think of Snow Hill as a "tennis mecca."

Oh, but it is.

And the nation certainly knows about it now.

Based on United States Tennis Association (USTA) memberships and population, per capita, Greene County is the tennis capital of the South.

The success of Greene Central's women's and men's tennis teams -- who have played for a combined 12 N.C. High School Athletic Association Class 2-A dual-team state championships -- have helped bolster the sport in the mostly-rural area.

A 12-court, lighted facility beside the Greene County satellite campus of Lenoir Community College, and Greene Ridge Racquet Club attracts nearly 12,000 tennis players to USTA-sanctioned events every year. Strong summer leagues have produced state-, regional- and national-qualifying teams, which has undoubtedly helped the sport evolve.

With that in mind, the Snow Hill Board of Commissioners applied for the USTA's "Best Tennis Town" recognition award. The program, in its second year, acknowledges towns who promote the growth and development of tennis at every level.

Several folks compiled a promotional video to send to the USTA, which searches for the community which best exemplifies the passion, excitement, community spirit and impact tennis brings to the members of the community.

Snow Hill, the smallest town by population, made the top 10 list along with Atlanta, Charleston (S.C.), Richmond (Va.), Clearwater (Fla.), Beaverton (Ore.), Delray Beach (Fla.), Rosemount (Minn.), Manchester Center (Vt.) and Rome (Ga.).

Once the top 10 was announced, the towns had to promote themselves and generate votes. Unfortunately, Snow Hill didn't make it into the top three. Altanta, Richmond and Charleston will vie for the $100,000 prize which will aid community-wide programming and facility enhancements. The winner will be announced during the 2010 U.S. Open at Flushing, N.Y., in late August.

Snow Hill earned honorable mention status and will receive $2,000 worth of tennis equipment to assist in its efforts to grow tennis in the community.

Greene Central head coach Donald Clark remembers the first day he viewed the tennis courts at Greene Central. Tree roots and grass had broken through the four courts on campus that were near the road, but were torn down once the 12-court facility was erected through USTA events and donations.

"It has been heartwarming for me to watch the community embrace the sport," said Clark to a local newspaper. "Now as I travel the state, if I tell someone I am from Snow Hill, they are aware of us because of our reputation for tennis."

And the reputation continues to grow.