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  gathering of the greatest ... come join the World's Greatest female racquetball professionals as they reunite for charity! Contact: Julee Nicolia for more information. Read about last years event.

When:

October 15-17, 2004
Where: Nautilus Fitness & Racquet Club
2312 West 15th Street
Erie, PA 16505
Deadline: Friday, October 8, 2004
Info: 814-459-3033
Entry: Download a .PDF entry form
Format: "Doubles Only" - single elimination (consolations if time permits)
Ball: Wilson
Tournament Director Julee Nicolia devised this event in 2001, but its first playing was delayed by the 9/11 tragedy. She rescheduled the event debut later in 2002 and it has been held annually since.

SCHEDULE OF EVENTS
FRIDAY On Friday evening, amateur tournament players have the opportunity of a lifetime to bid in the "Pay For A Pro" auction, winning the chance to play and compete as a team with a "Pro" in a mini doubles tournament. Half of the tournament's auction proceeds will be donated to The American Red Cross, while the other half will be divided evenly among the top four Pro-Am teams. Each amateur who participates in the "Pro-Am" will receive several gifts.

Bidding begins at 6 PM sharp on Friday, with the highest bidder winning the first pick from the pool of Pro Names. This team will then be placed in the draw as the top seed, with the next highest bidder receiving the second pick and the second seed. Successive placement will continue in a similar manner until all the Pro Names have been chosen. Amateur participation is limited, so plan to attend early!

SATURDAY The amateur tournament may begin as early as 8 AM, while the "Pro Doubles" event will begin at 10 AM. A Pig Roast will take place at Noon. Following the day's play, "Party with the Pros", a "Mexican Fiesta" will begin at 7 PM in the Bel-Aire Hotel Ballroom, Erie's own "Classic Choice" for premier events.

Dress will be casual. Each tournament participant will receive a complimentary ticket to Saturday's party. Additional tickets for guests can be purchased ($20/guest) if the ticket price is included with the player's entry fee. Party tickets will not be sold at the door! Party participants will be regaled with a sumptuous "Mexican Fiesta" and an auction filled with surprises. The bidding pleasure will be surpassed only by the evening's closing event, when each guest's party ticket will be placed in a drawing to win an Airline Voucher. Must be present to win!

SUNDAY "Pro Doubles", Semis, and Finals begin at 10 AM. Amateur play may begin as early as 8 AM.

Details
MAIL ENTRIES: Nautilus Fitness & Racquet Club
2312 West 15th Street Erie, PA 16505
Attn: Julee Nicolia
Download a .pdf entry
ENTRY FEE INCLUDES: * Ticket to "Mexican Fiesta" Saturday night * Pig Roast Saturday Noon * Ticket for Airfare Drawing * Player "Meal Tent" overflowing with great eats * Special Awards to first & second place.
FEES: $60.00 First Event $20.00 Second Event . Payment must accompany entry form! Please provide your own towel and lock.
STARTING TIMES: Available Thursday, October 14th: (814) 459-3033
TOURNAMENT DIRECTOR: Reserves the right to reclassify any entry. Entries will be limited to first 100 players!
RULES: USRA rules apply. Rule modifications will be posted. Nautilus is an adult facility. Due to liability concerns, children under 12 years of age may not attend the tournament.
Highlights
HOSPITALITY: Snacks, fruit, coffee, and muffins, food & beverages will be available throughout the weekend. Pig Roast Saturday at Noon, "Party with the Pros" Mexican Fiesta Bel-Aire Hotel Saturday 7PM.
LODGING: Bel-Aire Hotel - (814) 833-1116 the Classic Choice. Please mention tournament participation.
SPECIAL EVENTS:
  • Marquette Savings Bank "Party with the Pros"
  • Mexican Fiesta Bel-Aire Hotel Ballroom (Casual)
  • Mexican Fiesta Party Theme
  • Charity Auction
  • Air Fare Drawing
  • Rub Elbows With The Pros
  • Pig Roast Saturday Afternoon
  • Commemorative Gifts To All Players 
  • Ticket for the Airfare Drawing
  • Special Awards to first & second Place
SPONSORS: Palermo Realty & Development
Print Communications
Marquette Savings Bank
Proceeds to benefit the American Red Cross
2003 Gathering
the Greats II

by Theresa Sumner

Click on photos
for larger views ... 


Caryn McKinney & Molly O'Brien

O'Brien & Shannon Wright

McKinney, Faulkenberry, Bailey, Adams, Galloway,Wright, Fenton, MacKenzie. Photos: Shannon Wright. 

The only event of its kind ever to take place in the history of the sport, the Gathering of the Greatest II succeeded again in reuniting some of the world's greatest female racquetball professionals for a weekend of intense play. Lighting up the courts of Nautilus Fitness and Racquet Club in Erie, Pennsylvania, fifteen of the finest female pros of the 70's, 80's, and 90's gathered to raise scholarship money for the John Tramontano, Jr. Education Foundation.

Thanks to extremely generous local and equipment sponsorship; enthusiastic support from the Pros, and a well-crafted schedule of events by tournament director, Julee Nicolia, the event proved to be everything that any "gathering of the greatest" should be. The Pros were a class act, both on and off the courts. Players and spectators alike reveled in the charged atmosphere and superb hospitality, which included gift packages for each entrant and a food tent boasting everything from bagels and coffee to catered Italian dishes and even a pig roast. It was the right combination of great racquetball and serious fun as attendees raised thousands of dollars for the designated charity.

Guests of honor included Lynn Adams, Malia Bailey, Fran Davis, Chris Evon, Laura Fenton, Lorraine Galloway, Kaye Kuhfeld, Mary Lyons, Joy MacKenzie, Janell Marriott, Caryn McKinney, Molly O'Brien, Susan Pfahler, Jean Sauser, and Shannon Wright. Upon arrival at her complimentary Clarion Hotel room, each pro found a welcome package containing a commemorative sweater, wall clock, wine, chocolate, and more. As has become tradition, the Pros also enjoyed a private, poolside dinner on Friday night.

Beginning with the Friday Pro-Am event and ending with the Amateur Doubles finals on Sunday afternoon, play filled all eight courts. In between, double elimination pro Doubles and Amateur Doubles events kicked off on Saturday with 56 amateur teams placed into seven divisions. To the delight of the crowd, seven pro teams rotated on two pristine glass courts. A roster of thirteen Pros was rounded out at the last minute by the addition of one-time Erie local Karin Sobotta, and the Pro Doubles tournament captivated fans throughout.

Sunday morning brought the much-anticipated finals, featuring McKinney and Fenton against Bailey and MacKenzie. The match was complete with news cameras, a photographer, and sideline commentary by Sobotta. Spectators stood on chairs, sat on the floor, and lined the balcony to watch the competition, and even the well-traveled food tent was forgotten in the playoff excitement.

Combining tight teamwork with a tenacious drive to succeed, Bailey and MacKenzie took the first game, 15-8. Replying with sound serves and smart play, McKinney and Fenton pulled together to force a tiebreaker after taking the second game, 15-12. The fluid play, poise, and tempo control employed by Bailey and MacKenzie, however, became most evident during the tiebreaker. Mackenzie, three months pregnant at the time, managed to twist into three half-dives to keep the ball in play and once took a shot from under Bailey's feet when Malia jumped over a ball off the back wall. Bailey and MacKenzie went on to take the match with a decisive 11-4 tiebreaker win.

Fundraising began Friday evening, successfully raising $3420 by the evening's end. Amateurs opened bidding to team-up with a Pro, with the first auction donation setting the tone by topping out at $600. Each top bidder then selected a pro partner through a blind draw and no one was disappointed, as McKinney took every diving opportunity and Adams entertained opponents and spectators alike. Many pros graciously offered playing tips and strategic advice during their one-on-one court time with their partners. In the finals, McKinney and her partner, Joe Garbarino, defeated Molly O'Brien and Bob Martini.

The big bash took place Saturday night at the Party with the Pros gala in the Clarion Hotel banquet room. A long table lined with bouquets, wine, and pictures of the Pros focused everyone's attention on the guests of honor. Nicolia, in her ongoing efforts to recognize these renowned athletes, enlisted the talents of local artist Deb Peffer to provide a little ambiance for the gala. Peffer did so by sketching 5-foot tall caricatures of every pro, each portraying the athlete with a little "flair."

General Manager of Nautilus Fitness and Racquet Club, Mike Davis, opened the evening by recognizing the attendees, while Lynn Adams played emcee, auctioneer and comic relief. Between them, they assisted in raising thousands more dollars as many of the 250 guests bid on such donated items as racquets signed by a few top touring Pros, racquet bags, golf clubs, a softball bat, and various other athletic equipment.

In a surprise appearance, U.S. Air Force Colonel Barb Faulkenberry showed up for the banquet, after flying directly from the Prince Sultan Air Base in Saudi Arabia. She had planned on playing in both of the Gathering of the Greatest tournaments but had, up until this point, been unable to depart from her tour of duty in the Middle East.

Events such as the Gathering of the Greatest hold multi-tiered significance for our communities, charities, and athletes, and more specifically, for the sport. For many fans, this was not just an opportunity to watch great racquetball; it was a chance to witness, firsthand, the outcome of years of dedication by a few female athletes focused on a common goal. Thanks go out to all who so graciously donated time, money, and talent for the benefit of so many.

As happens with any great show, repeat performances are in high demand. For your chance to take part, look for a Gathering of the Greatest III. [Read the print coverage in RACQUETBALL, Sept/Oct 2003]

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