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Tunica National making presence known on golf, tennis circuits

Tunica Resorts — Much to every player’s delight, PGA star John Daly relaxed on the 16th hole of Tunica National Golf & Tennis Club’s 18-hole Mark McCumber-designed championship public golf course and waited for teams to pass by so he could give each one a special swing.

At the Lion’s Heart Invitational held June 8 at Tunica National, Daly hit a tee ball for each team, which allowed them to play from areas in which many players were unaccustomed.

“John Daly … is not only a golf legend, but a great, fun guy to be around and he showed all 115 players a fantastic time,” said Tunica National general manager Bob Wolcott. The roster included celebrities such as Geoff Bodine, Sean “The Beast” Fisher, Johnny Lee and members of the Sister Hazel rock band, who later entertained the crowd at a VIP party.

The summer is heating up at the county-owned sports playground located in the nation’s third largest gaming destination. Tunica National will host the prestigious 34th-annual Farm Bureau Invitational Tournament July 14-16 for the first time.

“The Farm Bureau Invitational is always a good time, and our course is definitely up to the tournament challenge this year,” said Wolcott.

The two-year-old club has launched several popular golf programs, including the creation of the Golf Training Academy, which offers the latest in technology-based training combined with hands-on attention from golfing professionals, and the Tunica National Women’s Golf Association.

Not long after the club opened, the Ladies Professional Golf Association-U.S. Golf Association (LPGA-USGA) selected Tunica National as a site for Girls Golf, a developmental golf program for girls ages seven to 17. The Southeastern Conference (SEC) selected it for its championship tournament for women collegiate golfers.

“When we opened in (May) 2004, we knew it would take time to establish our programs, let the turf mature and create first-class amenities for our members and guests,” said Wolcott. “Now that we’re heading into our third full season, we’re looking forward to the results of a lot of hard work. It’s going to be an excellent year.”

Every Thursday at 10 a.m., area golfers tune in to AM 560 for the “MidSouth Golfer” radio show, broadcast live from Tunica National featuring Rob Fischer, Jimmy Darr and Wolcott.

And that’s just golf.

Action on the court

The U.S. Tennis Association (USTA) recently selected Tunica National as one of the nation’s 15 outstanding new tennis facilities, featuring four Hydro-Grid clay courts, the only ones south of Washington, D.C.

For the second consecutive year, Tunica National hosted the Harrah’s $50,000 USTA Men’s Pro Challenger, which featured players from 20 countries, with Mardy Fish as the number one seed. Fish, a former top 10 player in the world who has played the Davis Cup for the U.S. in nine different locations, lost in the final round to Deigo Hartfield.

“Why does Tunica National get to host this event? I’ll tell you why,” said Tunica National tennis director Keith Evans. “Yes, we have a world-class facility. And yes, we agree to raise the sponsorship money. But point blank, we got this major event because of a relationship between Tunica National and USTA. What other club has hosted eight USTA-sanctioned events in only their second year of operation?”

During the tournament, Evans was sitting in the on-court bleachers with tournament supervisor Mike Loo, who asked him: “Do you guys want to have us back next year?”

“I was shocked by the question,” admitted Evans. “He then said, ‘There is no way I can’t give it back to you. I like you too much and your staff at Tunica National is unbelievable. Besides, the players love you, too.’”

Evans, a former world-ranked ATP tennis player who also plays a mean game of golf — during last month’s tournament, he took home a Sony home theater system for being the player who hit a ball closest to the pin on number eight — said that team tennis is one of the region’s hottest tickets. Tunica National offers a variety of weekday and weekend tennis retreat packages for groups that include clinics with a tennis professional, match play against other teams and several amenities that are popular in this casino resort destination.

Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynne W. Jeter at Lynne.Jeter@gmail.com.


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