Indoor to Outdoors: Pros Hit the Courts
With the 2012-2013 IRT season winding down, the intensity at the remaining stops is ramped up, especially towards the top of the rankings. But there may also be thoughts of plans for the off season. Vacations, plans with family and just a look forward to some time off, may all be in view.
About the time the International Racquetball Tour (IRT) season ends, the Outdoor season starts in full swing and some of top pros mark their calendars with WOR’s biggest events. Pro racquetball players have been hitting the big outdoor tournaments regularly for the past five years. It’s been a great for the sport to the point where any big outdoor tournament just wouldn’t be the same without some major professionals in attendance.
In 2004, World Outdoor Racquetball (WOR), in it’s infancy, chose the Historic Garfield Courts in Hollywood Beach, Florida as a new venue to introduce WOR to Florida. It was an attractive event in that some top pros where invited to play and many of them actually showed to enjoy the game right by the beach. Some names that were in attendance included Cliff Swain, Sudsy Monchik, Jason Mannino, Marty Hogan and Ruben Gonzalez. With players traveling from all over the country, it was a unique situation at that time.
It sparked a growth in Florida that has resulted in Florida becoming one of WOR’s biggest markets. Since that inaugural event, the courts have undergone a complete renovation that has made it one of the most attractive places to play outdoor racquetball anywhere in the country. Something that didn’t go unnoticed by Vic Leifbofsky
, who works with WOR in Florida. Since the reconstruction, Vic has led the efforts to create a yearly event that has become a tradition for Florida and New York players. Beach Bash has been running for seven years. The one thing that has been missing are top level touring professionals attending this outdoor event.
This year marked the return of Cliff Swain, who hadn’t played on these courts since 2004. This event is more of a doubles, fun-in-the-sun type of event. Yet, it didn’t keep Cliff from taking it seriously and showing what he can do on these courts, making it to the semifinal in the Men’s Pro Division with partner Vic Leifbofsky. Considering Cliff hasn’t played One Wall since 2004, he proved that top pros, active and inactive, are a force on any court.
This event is considered by some to be the funnest outdoor event because of the venue and weather. “The atmosphere created by Vic & the venue is what makes a sporting event great. The racquetball was high level but somebody that didn’t know the game would enjoy being there. That’s an aspect that’s too often overlooked at tournaments; it should be entertainment for all!”, says Swain.
Also there for his first One Wall event, was Brad Schopieray, current #17 on the IRT tour. Brad is 19 years old, and to experience this early in his career, provided for some good perspective on the sport as a whole. As Brad put it, “I wish every tournament was like that. It was a blast. Being able to finish a match then walk across the street and in the ocean or walk three blocks back to the hotel in the Florida weather it was awesome. I think Vic did a great job fitting all those matches into two days it was a great tournament and I hope to be back next year!”
As long as the outdoor events keep growing, having players from the International Racquetball Tour (IRT) attend them can only be a good thing. It’s another way for players from all over the country, to have an opportunity to spend time around the world’s best players. If that happens in the sun, yards from the beach, well, even better.