Red Deer Tennis Club member Mary Gardiner says the spirit of the Thelma Smith Memorial Tournament is unique. Photo by Mamta Lulla/Advocate staff

Red Deer Tennis Club ready for annual tournament

Tennis is a sport you play for life.

That’s what longtime Red Deer Tennis Club member and director Mary Gardiner tells people.

Her words are true of at least two former members who are being honoured at the club’s 10th annual Thelma Smith Memorial Tournament on Saturday.

Former club member Cor Bruin played until he was 92, before he died in 2015. Another former member who is being honoured this year, Orest Olineck, played for many years before he died the same year.

“Some of our junior members start playing when they’re four or five, and then you have Cor, who played until he was 92. You just play at a different level and you place the ball better, so you don’t have to run,” said Gardiner.

The memorial tournament honours club members who have died. In the past decade, the club has honoured about 16 former members.

“I keep a list and we move down the list each year. So somebody who died in 2019 won’t get on it this year, because we have to go chronologically,” said Gardiner.

The tournament is dedicated to Thelma Smith, a longtime member and a former president of the club, said Gardiner.

“So when she died, we decided to have a memorial tournament in her honour, which she would’ve loved,” she said.

Later on, the board decided to honour past members who had died.

Gardiner, who is a longtime player herself, and has played in various parts of Canada, says it’s a neat idea that is unique to the Red Deer club.

“I don’t know of any other club that does that, so it’s innate to Red Deer Tennis Club and we’re proud of that.”

When Gardiner calls the family members of the former players who are recognized, they’re often surprised, she said.

“They’re grateful, but usually, they’re surprised when I call them. For example, with Orest and Cor, it’s four years since they died, and they didn’t know about the memorial tournament,” she said of the family members.

Relatives get to talk about their loved ones to those present at the potluck dinner after the day’s game.

The names of those who are honoured and the winning team names go on a memorial plaque.

The tournament is a popular event among central Alberta tennis players. Gardiner said players sign up as individuals, but play in teams, and use all the eight outdoor courts at the club.

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