Wed, Nov 29, 2023 11:11 AM

Tennis club celebrates 100 years in fine style


Peter Jones

The Rapaura Tennis Club celebrated an historical milestone in appropriate fashion over the weekend, club president Ben Burridge saying the centenary event was a success “beyond expectations”.

The club have been located at their current address at the Rapaura Memorial Park on Rapaura Rd for 100 years, prompting a weekend of activities specially designed to mark the occasion.

The clubhouse, situated beside the iconic grass courts, was the venue for a meet-and-greet on Friday evening, with junior players in action and new honours boards being unveiled.

A specially-designed cake was cut at the Saturday evening centenary dinner. Photo supplied.

That was followed on Saturday by an afternoon of tennis activities, including an exhibition match between notable past and present players, some using old-fashioned wooden rackets. During the festivities, a tree was planted by Pat Pigou, the club’s oldest past member. Another tree was earlier planted in memory of another club stalwart, the late Dot Fenemor.

On Saturday evening, the action moved to the nearby Rapaura School hall, with 130 guests enjoying a centenary dinner and the entertaining input of guest speaker, former Grand Slam semi-finalist Belinda Cordwell, who recalled playing in Marlborough early in her distinguished career. Phil Wright, a member of the Tennis NZ board was also in attendance and congratulated the club on its longevity and continued place in the community. Several club stalwarts also took the opportunity to underline what the club had meant to them and their families over many, many years.

The club's energetic centenary committee ensured the event ran smoothly. Photo Photo Craig Rohloff Photography 

On Sunday, a more formal ceremony took place, recognising the wartime service of those remembered on the memorial gates and those from the area who made the ultimate sacrifice. Ben described it as “a beautiful and moving ceremony, attended by around 70 people”.

Mayor Nadine Taylor was in attendance, recalling the kind gesture of the Gifford family, who lost one of their eight sons during World War 1, and granted the land in his memory.

Pat Pigou, the oldest past member, was on hand to plant a commemorative tree, with, at right, club stalwarts and life members Ian Gifford and Ewen Robinson in attendance. Photo Peter Jones

Acclaimed Marlborough soprano Rosie McAlister sang the national anthem, while club member Graham Moseley played the Last Post. Wreaths were laid by relatives of the 12 soldiers who gave their lives in the Boer War, the Great War and World War 2, plus the RSA and the Mayor.

The tennis club has evolved into a modern, six-court facility with its well-tended grass courts now becoming a rarity on the modern tennis scene.

Past and present club members took part in an exhibition match on Saturday, the younger brigade trying their luck with old school wooden rackets. From left, Tony Fenemor, Paul Weaver, Jane Anderson-Bay, Ella Sowman, Max Sowman and Dan Clarke. Photo Peter Jones

Ben said the club was in good heart, with plenty of senior sides and over 100 youngsters receiving coaching from Glen Cameron and Matt Hair each week.

“We have a very active committee. Everyone is contributing … plus we have lots of people outside of the committee who are doing their bit as well,” added Ben.

Club president Ben Burridge speaks to the guests at the centenary dinner. Photo Peter Jones
A collection of tennis rackets from through the ages was on display. Photo Craig Rohloff Photography
Guest speaker Belinda Cordwell shared her experiences on the professional tour with the dinner guests. Photo supplied.
Marlborough App Logo
Marlborough App
Marlborough App is owned by Top South Media. a locally owned media company.