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Tunica National offering range of golf and tennis options

Tennis players in the South seeking to play on Hydro-Grid Har-Tru indoor clay courts no longer have to travel to Washington, D.C.

The new 8,000-square-foot clubhouse at the $12-million Tunica National Golf and Tennis Club features four of the Davis Cup-quality indoor clay tennis courts, an amenity that Tunica County officials hope will lead to a regular U.S. Tennis Association (USTA) tour stop.

Har-Tru`s granular surface acts as a shock-absorbing cushion, allowing players to slide into their returns, preventing joint-jarring stops that are common on hard surfaces. Tennis players prefer it because studies have shown that they are seven times less likely to injure themselves on surfaces that allow sliding.

On a Har-Tru court, the ball bounces consistently slower than on other surfaces, resulting in longer rallies, a greater variety of strokes and a more controlled game. Its best feature is perhaps the innovative high-tech, sub-surface irrigation system that controls indoor humidity.

“Having these indoor Hydro-Grid Har-Tru courts will be a first for the South, and we’re proud to bring such an advanced system to Tunica National,” said club tennis pro Keith Evans, a former world-ranked ATP tennis player in singles and doubles.

This spring, construction is slated to begin on an additional half-dozen outdoor hard courts with stadium seating.

“By doing that, Tunica National would be able to qualify for a stop on the USTA tour,” said Mississippi Development Authority tourism director Craig Ray.

Tennis camps and clinics will be offered year-round, including weekend dual match retreats for teams with levels ranging from 2.5 through 4.5. Tunica National has already hosted a pro-am tournament and a Men`s Southern Clay Court Championship.

Located on U.S. 61 North in Tunica, approximately 30 miles south of Memphis, Tunica National also features an 18-hole public golf course. Mark McCumber, one of the world`s leading golf course architects, designed the 7,210-yard, par 72 championship layout covering 212 acres of rolling terrain and manicured greens and offering numerous strategically-placed water hazards and bunkers.

Other golf highlights: a six-hole, par-three practice course; a 360-degree circular driving range with multiple targets and four distinct practice areas; a golf school with full video analysis equipment; and golf carts featuring global positioning system (GPS) technology.

“Tunica National is very impressive,” said Janet Leach, director of golf tourism for the Mississippi Development Authority. “The clubhouse is first-class, from the minute you walk in the door and see the wood floors with oriental rugs. Everything is beautiful.”

Because the golf course is set up for players from high handicaps to low handicaps, everyone can play the course, said Leach, who recently escorted a golf media familiarization tour to Tunica National.

Golf media representatives included Ryan Rees, publisher of Southern Golf News, Thomas Bedell for Travel and Leisure Golf, Michael Patrick Shiels for Michigan Golfer, Stephen Donahue, author of “Little Black Book of Golf,” Jason Deegan for Michigan PubLinks Golfer, Adam McCaa, publisher of Pros ‘N Hackers magazine, Dan Shepherd of Buffalo Communication near Washington, D.C., and Anne McAndrews of Golf for Women magazine.

“They loved the course,” said Leach. “I loved it because I’m a high handicap golfer and felt like I had the opportunity to score well. It`s a fun golf course. It penalizes you when you make a bad shot, but there are no surprises. At a lot of courses, you`ll make a great shot just to find your ball in a bunker in the middle of a fairway. Also, to be brand new, everyone thought the course was in great condition.”

Tunica National general manager Bob Wolcott said a second golf course was not planned.

“I’m sure Mark McCumber would love to design another one for us,” he said. “But that`s not in the works.”

Wolcott said Tunica National is another example of Tunica County manager Ken Murphree “doing an incredible job with the vision of Tunica County.”

“It`s great to see the county commissioners putting tax revenues back to work with the new river park, golf course and the airport,” said Wolcott. “They’re very proud of their heritage and want to show off their county, and a lot of great things are happening in Mississippi because of it. People need to come see Tunica County and experience it and do everything they can to support it.”

The venture represents a first in Mississippi for Tunica National`s management company, KemperGolf Management (KGM), a division of Northbrook, Ill.-based KemperSports, operator of more than 75 golf courses in 28 states. Gateway manages the tennis center.

Tunica National is the casino resort destination`s third championship golf course, preceded by Cottonwoods and RiverBend Links. The Cottonwoods Golf Club at Grand Casino Tunica features a Hale Irwin-designed, 7,000-yard course with rolling fairways, a trio of lakes and landscaped cart paths. At RiverBend Links located at Casino Strip Resorts -Sam`s Town, Hollywood and Harrah`s – Clyde Johnston designed the Scottish-links style golf course, which curves around strategic knolls and bunkers.

Officials in Tunica County – the largest gaming market in the nation behind Las Vegas and Atlantic City, with 15 million annual visitors – also plan to build a convention center with hotel accommodations adjacent to the course.

“We have millions of visitors coming to Tunica each year to visit the nine casinos,” said Webster Franklin, president and CEO of Tunica Convention and Visitors Bureau. “Tunica National is one of the initiatives to transform Tunica into a destination whose appeal reaches far beyond gaming.”

A grand opening is scheduled for Tunica National on May 18.

Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynne W. Jeter at mbj@thewritingdesk.com.

About Lynne W. Jeter

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