Stephen Gort.
Stephen Gort.

Bowls courts tennis

COMMUNITY bias will serve a big part in a unique fundraising tennis exhibition match at the most unlikeliest of venues.

The all-grass Byron Bay Bowling Club will host young tennis ace and Cavanbah Tennis Club coach Stephen Gort when he plays an exhibition match there on Sunday.

Gort, 20, will play touring Gold Coast satellite circuit player Chris Letcher in one of four exhibition games on a court manipulated from the bowling club’s renowned Tifdwarf-grassed front green.

The 40 square-metre green has been redrawn as a tennis court with specially designed free-standing net supports in the hope it stands up to the rigours of the exhibition matches.

The games will include a Byron v Bangalow under-10 boys championship match at 1pm, a Byron v Mullumbimby mixed doubles championship game at 1.30pm and a veterans match at 2pm before Gort and Letcher take to the court at 2.30pm.

The public will be able to hire the court for ‘barefoot’ hit-ups as part of the fundraiser for two hours before the exhibition matches.

If the green stands up to the test the bowling club will consider establishing an annual grasscourt tournament with Byron Bay championship status.

Ironically, the club’s Tifdwarf greens have links with the 40th anniversary celebrations at Ocean Shores last weekend as it was brought from South Africa by Pat Boone for its golf course greens.

The grass was planted in Byron Bay in 1972 and a NSW representative team had its first game on the grass soon afterwards.

Today, Tifdwarf grass is used by most North Coast bowling clubs.

“It’s a very tough grass and we’re determined to give it a real test on Sunday,” the chairman of the bowling club’s board, Jim Clark, said.

“We’re already catering for a huge number of backpackers in weekly barefoot bowls sessions and this shapes up as another string to our bow.

“We’re not overly worried about bruising or the grass being ripped up because it is so tough.

“Of course, our big plans are further down the track, and for the moment we’re just concentrating on Sunday’s fundraiser to get Stephen to the Mildura Grand International in February.”

Gort is currently 137th on Australian rankings and holds the Byron Bay, Mullumbimby and North Coast Open singles championships.

He is rated one of Australia’s most promising young world circuit hopefuls according to Byron Tennis manager Greg Furney.

“Mildura carries $50,000 prizemoney but most importantly carries world ranking points,” Furney said.

“Both are vitally important to Stephen’s prospects right now so we are hoping for a big turnout on Sunday to get him there.”

Letcher has just returned from satellite international tour matches in the US, Mexico and Kuala Lumpur.

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