Private Club, College Share Love of Tennis at Bonita Bay Club / FGCU Collegiate Open
Dec 29, 2023
It was certainly a tennis win-win-win situation for college coaches, student-athlete tennis players and club member fans. The Bonita Bay Club located in Bonita Springs is a little esoteric gem in Southwest Florida. Supervised by 30-year Bonita Bay Director of Sports, Paula Scheb, USPTA Master Professional, the award-winning organization has one of the most progressive and active private tennis programs in the country. The membership and its staff along with host school Florida Gulf Coast University knows all the spot-on ingredients for presenting a prize-winning trier one event.
Nestled into its 240 acres of pristine landscape are 18 championship Har-Tru tennis courts, including a stadium court and program supporting 25 men's and women's league tennis teams with a state-of-the-art PlaySight video analysis. Other amenities include croquet, pickleball and golf available on five world-class courses, including three classic Arthur Hills designed courses and Tom Fazio's Cypress and Sabal courses all within an Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary setting.
Plus there's a 20,000-square-feet Fitness and Lifestyle center along with its 9,000-square feet resort-style Spa and Salon.
The "wow factor" was in non-stop mode as coaches and players from Notre Dame, Purdue, Memphis, Virginia Tech, and Wichita State arrived marveling at all the personal touches. There was an assembly of school banners and signage of each university. With smiling meet-and-greet welcomes, unequivocally the feeling of being embraced was established.
The attitude was gratitude, mutual gratefulness, that is. Club members and staff thanked the coaches and their players for coming and staying at their homes. Coaches and players were saying "No, No, thank you so very much for inviting us to come to play and to stay with you at your home." Yes, that is right. All the players from the eight teams were housed, fed, and entertained by the host families.
Dinner and gatherings along with sight-seeing and visits to the beach added to these players' special weekend encounter. There was always a mutual high energy from the players and from the members as both groups welcomed getting acquainted. The members wanted to pick up the youthful positive outlook of the college student-athletes. The players wanted the priceless experience of the success-secret and the refined and polished conduct that was prevalent in Bonita Bay Club membership.
Tennis is a global sport. College tennis is international. There was a warm welcome at the club to further explore today's young perception of the world. The international players savored their time sharing the backgrounds of their heritage.
Eleven-year seasoned Women's FGCU Head Coach Courtney Vernon has amassed an ASUN conference record of 51-14 along with three conference championship titles. The former number one University of South Florida player was once again eager to have her two seniors, three juniors, one sophomore, three freshmen and one Graduate student experience some clay court college team match play.
New FGCU Men's Head Coach Davidson Kozlowski just joined the Green and Blue Eagles in July. After a Kozlowski 11-year run at Drake University, the Bulldogs reached a D-I school history high ranking of No.16. Now the former number one Florida State University singles player was eager to guide his one senior and eight freshman squad to new and exciting ventures on and off the court as well in the classroom of life.
In general, tennis, except for the US Open, has been a somewhat subdued spectator sport. College tennis is not spectator subdued. College tennis welcomes strong spectator support. Club members got into it wearing the school shirts and caps of the participating teams. The Bonita Bay Club is proud to contribute an FGCU scholarship to the women's team. Even the scholarship contributors cheered their adopted visiting guest team this weekend. The quality of the play was inspiring. Many of the members and new college tennis fans were saying "these players are as good as pros." And the members' perception of several of the college players was not exaggerated. Many have the stroke production look. It is just a matter of more mental strength and self-esteem being acquired in time. Bottom line: The members loved what they were seeing and making new tennis acquaintances.
In this tennis journalist's evaluation, team tennis can add another dimension to the sport. I was privileged to cover the Centennial Davis Cup with Australia verses United States in 1999 at the Longwood Cricket Club in Boston with all living Davis Cuppers in attendance invited by the USTA, and The 2003 Fed Cup semifinals at the Olympic Stadium in Moscow with France, Belgium, Russian and United States captained by Billie Jean King, along with a double-digits worth of NCAA National Championships. The just mentioned team tennis are as good as it gets. However, in a slightly scaled down rank, The Bonita Bay Club FGCU Collegiate Open was almost as exciting and perhaps even more fun!
Six schools and eight teams participated: Purdue, Memphis, Notre Dame, FGCU, Wichita State, and Virginia Tech had men's teams and Purdue and FCGU also brought women's teams.
Results Women Matches won: Purdue 3, Memphis 2. Men Matches won: Purdue and Virginia Tech tied with 2 matches each, FGCU and Wichita State tied with 1 match each.
* Paula Scheb, Bonita Bay Club Director of Sports: We are thrilled to be hosting this event. Six years ago, when we talked about doing this with FGCU there was such a strong feeling from the membership. Without the members' support, it could not happen. They support it financially and passionately. Everyone has such a good feeling about hosting this. The tournament brings our membership closer. There is such positive energy and vitality.
* C J Weber, Bonita Bay Club Director of Instruction: As the former head coach of FGCU men's team, I was able to witness first-hand how the visiting coaches appreciated and valued this tournament's impact on their player's college memory bank. The visiting coaches and players love this tournament.
* Debba Pearce, Bonita Bay Club player housing: We have such a wonderful time housing and getting to know the players. They make you feel young and who does not want to be around the youth?
* Courtney Vermon, FGCU Women's Head Tennis Coach: It is rewarding to feel how committed the club membership is to their college tournament. It is a creative format to have the men and women's teams competing here together in this first-class venue. It bonds our FGCU program. They make it first rate all the way and it is in our backyard. Teams are begging to be invited back!
* Davidson Kozlowski, FGCU Men's Head Tennis Coach: The overall experience for the players here is better than most conference championships. I have played in the SEC, ACC and coached in The Summit League, Missouri Valley Conference, and Conference USA. This event tops them all; it is fantastic. It means so much to have people care and our players are getting housed. It is a strong mentoring experience. Thank you to the Bonita Bay Club members.
* Laura Glitz, Purdue Women's Head Coach: The FGCU Bonita Bay Club Collegiate Open is hands down my team's favorite tournament of the year! The people that run the tournament as well as the people who volunteer to house the players and the friendships are fantastic.
* Alison Sliverio, Notre Dame Women's Head Coach: The hospitality and impeccable facility created an unforgettable experience for our players and coaches. Connecting with our housing families, Notre Dame Alumni and competing in front of enthusiastic spectators was terrific!
* Jim Thompson, Virginia Tech Men's Head Coach: This awesome event which allows our players a great experience at a first class club makes players feel special. The flags, the awesome housing, the attention to all the little details makes it special. It is a terrific way to finish the fall season with great competition.
* Matic Spec, Purdue Assistant Men's Tennis Coach: The matches, combined with the social aspect of living with host families, was a great experience. We felt very welcome.
* Hayden Perez, Memphis Head Men's Coach: Very excited to be a part of the FGCU Bonita Bay Club Collegiate Open for the second straight year. Everyone is welcoming and the hospitality is amazing. The people make the event what it is, period.
Written by: Dave "Koz" Kozlowski. Kozlowski is one of the USPTA's first 17 Master Professionals in the world. His show was previously broadcast on The Tennis Channel and he was named the USTA Broadcaster of the Year. Photos/Video: Koz. Top photo: Bonita Bay Club via Facebook.