04/14/13 — Goldsboro Tennis Association looks restore county's tradition

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Goldsboro Tennis Association looks restore county's tradition

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on April 14, 2013 1:51 AM

Spend just a few minutes with Walnut Creek Country Club tennis pro Michael Boothman, and you can see the twinkle in his eye and excitement in his voice.

His unbridled enthusiasm makes the listener, whether you're a novice or experienced player, eager to grab a racquet and hit a few balls.

Boothman definitely wants to see more tennis played in Wayne County, which used to a be a hotbed of activity not long ago when local folks -- including the late John Allen Farfour -- selflessly promoted and played the sport with a passion.

But participation among children and adults has dwindled.

Some courts, riddled with weeds, have become ghost towns.

Activity is minimal on other courts.

Boothman is spearheading an organization -- the Goldsboro Tennis Association -- that wants to "freshen" the game of tennis, but also help restore the county's rich tradition. He's part of a six-member board that includes Wayne Christian head girls' coach Dana Willman, Goldsboro High alum Neil Baddour, Sherry Strickland, Julie Jackson and Danny Flowers of the Goldsboro Parks and Recreation Department.

"Our mission is to promote and develop the game of tennis in Goldsboro and surrounding areas," Boothman said. "My goal is to bring the community together again because I feel like we're divided. We're looking for support, not so much from the pros because we're here to help teach the game and get people into leagues and tournaments, but from the parents of the kids.

"There is obviously a lot of interest out there."

And concern from the United States Tennis Association, too.

The governing body has challenged professionals from Wilmington and Goldsboro to create ideas to promote tennis within their respective communities. Boothman used USTA funds to teach the younger kids the finer points of the game through modified equipment.

Youngsters from ages 4- to 12-years-old hit with smaller racquets on courts that are either 36 feet or 60 feet. The dimensions require less running and take away the intimidation of playing on a regulation court.

The balls are different, too. The compression is less and the balls don't bounce as high as regular tennis balls.

"The bounces are the right height for them," Boothman said.

Boothman set up court Saturday at the "Pig in the Park" celebration and plans to have two courts during the Pickle Festival in Mount Olive later this month. He seeks to spread information about the program and get as many participants as possible, which could help generate more grants from the USTA.

According to the USTA Website, the organization directed more than $49 million to communities across America to build and expand public tennis courts, fund scholarships and grants, offer tutoring and provide racquets and balls to youth in 2011.

Boothman said there are numerous grants available to help defray the cost of court repairs, and get students involved with the sport during their elementary and middle-school years.

"At this point, we're still trying to develop the organization and we need more volunteers from different areas in the county to help this get off the ground," Boothman said. "It boils down to getting the word out there and making sure the organization is properly set up. It's important to get something like this going again."