International Racquetball Tour (IRT) official referee, Charlie Pratt, made a popular call on his Facebook page Sunday. “Great event in Tampa!” The Florida Spring Break ProAm’s new location proved to be the right move, according to the Harlan Faircloth, the 40+ Doubles Champion and a top sponsor of the event. “There were probably a lot of hurdles to deal with, yet it went off without a hitch. It was easier to watch and there was more room.”
Enough space to fit the spectators was key, as Tournament Director Kim Roy scheduled the amateur matches to avoid conflicts with the pro’s play. Watching high-caliber ball was one reason that Faircloth supported the event, which gave him perfect access to watch the professionals from his guaranteed seat.
“That’s just the way it is in Florida,” explained Roy prior to the event. “It’s the racquetball community that really wants the pros to be here.”
It showed, as a broad base of smaller donations funded the event rather than a more standard model of one or two major sponsors. “Putting a little bit of money into something we love to do makes sense,” recalled Faircloth, who is with Core Engineering, a full-service environmental construction and engineering firm.
Eric Foecking, another top sponsor, also expressed the desire to give back to the racquetball community. He’s played on and off for the last twenty-two years, yet his time on the court became limited due to back problems. He first visited Dr. Machelle Perkins with NaturalMed Therapies as an alternative to more invasive procedures, like surgery recommended by other doctors. Under her care, his ability to play consistently has dramatically improved.
“When Kim first decided to set up a pro event, it was something I really wanted to help make happen.” He’d had a couple of brushes with a high class of play by attending one of Fran Davis’ clinics and watching a Sudsy Monchik/Jason Mannino exhibition. “As a racquetball player, it seemed like an incredible opportunity to get somebody of that skill into the area.”
The Tampa location, broadcast of the Play the Pros, competition for the Junior’s Scholarship, and near record-breaking number of entries in the pro draw added to the buzz, but the well-run tournament proved to be the main attraction. Foecking appreciates the effort that went into its success. “Kimberly did an amazing job in coordinating what has obviously been a fantastic effort with over 250 players, matches distributed across the different sites, the things that go on behind the scene in feeding and transportation…to pull it off is quite amazing. I hope it was a memorable experience, good for Tampa, and good for everyone.”
Click here to view the pro draw.
Click here to watch the archived broadcast on IRT Network (available soon).
Florida Spring Break Pro Am Champion (18U), Brad Schopierary, made his second finals appearance in two weeks, earning Gold and a scholarship to the Elite Training Camp in Colorado Springs this summer. The National High School Silver Medalist is a regular in the finals according to his dad, Don Schopieray, and ready to play the IRT full time next year. Click below to read more about Brad’s budding career, pro match recaps, and more about the event.“He has made or won almost every local tournament he entered. He will use the grant to play in Nationals in Fullerton California. So far, everything is in place for him to play full time on the IRT tour next year.”
The grant his proud father refers to is the inaugural Red Swain award, presented after the 2010 US Open in Minneapolis last fall. Brad didn’t have time to play in the country’s largest tournament, but was able to squeeze in a quick weekend trip to watch some pro matches before accepting his award. “He does not have the normal life of a seventeen year old. He trains six days a week in the gym and on the courts. On weekends he plays tournaments.”
He works out between classes while working toward his certification as a nurse’s aide, a job that will give him the flexibility to play the pro tour full time beginning next year. Brad wasn’t looking for a career, but started playing because his parents made him participate in a sport each season. “So I figured I’d try racquetball and see what happened.”
What happened is that he hit with his dad, played in the junior leagues, and then discovered tournaments, winning his first event in the 10U division. Don Schopieray recalled how the family increasingly enjoyed traveling together to tournaments as his son flourished in the “good kid environment.” They visited a lot of great cities they wouldn’t have otherwise. Brad still plays and trains with some of the same players he met, like Markus Rojas, Chris Cole, and Jimmy Floyd.
It’s not just a strong community of peers that has helped Brad develop, but the input from others. His dad appreciates the support. “We couldn’t ask for better resources, and by that I mean from the encouragement of good people. He’s sponsored by Head and it means a lot to have a guy like Doug Ganim put a hand on your shoulder and say that even though it’s tough to lose, but you played well and to keep at it.”
Brad appreciates the help he’s received, already giving back on down the line. According to Don, if he wants to mess around, he gives a lesson to a multi-bouncer or junior in the club. “That’s his fun time. If better players hadn’t take time with him, he wouldn’t be where he is now.”
Brad savored his memories from the US Open where he watched every professional match with a view unique to the stadium court – from behind the front wall. “The stuff they get is crazy. Shots everyone else thinks are down, they get. It’s cool to watch.”
Winning the Red Swain award and the Elite Camp scholarship means he doesn’t just get to watch the pros play on the stadium court, but perhaps compete there, too. The prize money will pay for his trip to Ektelon Nationals in Fullerton California next Memorial Day weekend, the next stop on the way to his professional career in racquetball.
In the meantime, Don’s glad that Brad got the job done, winning U18 in two, 15-9 and 15-5, as he posted on his Facebook account, adding, “a special thanks to John Scott and the guys at the www.irtnetwork.com for putting up the trip to Jim Winterton’s elite camp, we are really looking forward to being affiliated with them next year, thanks again!”
Kane Waselenchuk d Rocky Carson 9, 4, 4.
It was an excellant first game by both players, but Kane won with two good serves at the end. The next two games saw Kane in complete control with good serve and soft hands. Rocky had no answers.
#1 Kane Waselenchuk v #4 Jack Huczek: 3, 7, 9
Kane was too hot, playing in complete control with drive serves and soft hands.
#2 Rocky Carson d #3 Ben Croft: 7, (6), 0, (6), 0.
The lopsided scores don’t reflect the intensity of the 2+ hour match with Rocky’s steadiness outlasting Ben’s diving for an exciting contrast in styles. Ben did not have an answer for Rocky’s new diverse serves, especially forehand drive aces.
Rocky Carson over Shane Vanderson
6, 7, 6.
Kane Waselenchuk defeated Andy Hawthorne: 2, 4, 4
Ben Croft over Chris Crowther: 6, 1, 5
Jack Huczek d Jose Rojas: 2, 2, 11
#1 Kane Waselenchuk v #8 Andy Hawthorne @ 5:30 pm EST
#3 Ben Croft v #6 Chris Crowther @ 6:30 pm EST
#5 Jose Rojas v #4 Jack Huczek @ 7:30 pm EST