Friday, September 18, 2009

Pete Sampras, Jim Courier coming to play

Tennis fans can see some of the sport's greatest players and help local families when the Breezeplay Championships returns to Charlotte.

The tennis tournament will be Sept. 24-27 at The Palisades Country Club in south Charlotte. Tennis champions Pete Sampras, Todd Martin, Jim Courier and Pat Cash will play. Breezeplay is part of the Outback Championship Series, which partners with a local charity at each event. This year's local charity will be the Ronald McDonald House of Charlotte.

This is a new partnership for the tournament, which in previous years teamed with the now disbanded Athletes United for Youth. The Ronald McDonald House is scheduled to open next year. It will serve families of children being treated at local hospitals. Charlotte is the only major city without one.

Mona Johnson-Gibson, executive director of the Charlotte Ronald McDonald House, hopes the partnership will help raise awareness regarding the house, which will be on East Morehead Street. Gibson said she’s excited about the partnership because the event won’t be a gala or party, which are common charity fundraisers here. A tennis tournament will give people a different way to donate and learn about the house.

"I don’t see how it can be anything but a premier event for us," Gibson said. "It’s going to help get us off the ground."

Courier plays in the tournament and is the co-founder of the series, which features tennis champions ages 30 and over. The $150,000 Breezeplay Championships is the sixth of eight events on the 2009 Outback Champions Series. Courier said they looked at several Charlotte charities before choosing the Ronald McDonald House. Courier said the partnership is a good fit because the charity is new here.

"Some other organizations have big events and are limited at how they can work with the tournament," Courier said. "We really wanted to be effective."