Factoring in fun

McDonald's Family Classic more about joy than wins, losses

Brandon Miller returns a shot Friday night as his mom, Sandy, watches during their Mixed Family Junior match with Stephanie and Liam Pomrenke at the McDonald’s Family Summer Classic at the Elliott Tennis Center. The Millers won 6-0, 6-1.

It’s Arja over Pomrenke 5-4 at this year’s McDonald’s Family Summer Classic tennis tournament.

Not in a match, mind you. Rather, that’s the total number of members from the two best-represented families in the doubles tournament, which emphasizes fun.

And even in losses, most participants have fun.

Such was the case for Tarek and Ben Arja, who lost 6-1, 3-6, (10-2) to Steve and Randy Hurshman in the first round of the Father-Son/Daughter division.

Seventeen-year-old Ben Arja, about to embark on his senior season at Grand Junction High School, enjoys playing with his dad in the tournament.

“It’s a lot more laid back,” Ben said. “We have a lot of fun. It’s competitive, but not on a vicious level.”

Tarek said this is his fourth year playing the tourney, and he started with his daughters, Jillian and Nicky, who also dropped a close first match Friday night, their loss coming in three sets in the round-robin Mixed Family and Friends division.

Tarek said he enjoys the competition and meeting other families.

Steve Hurshman can relate to that.

After he and his son Randy notched their win, Steve returned to the court with Amy Espinoza in the Mixed Family High School division. He and Espinoza forced a third set, but Dan and Brent Bollinger prevailed 6-3, 5-7, (11-9).

Playing in the McDonald’s Family Summer Classic for his third year, Steve Hurshman said, “I like the camaraderie, and it’s great to meet new tennis friends.

“And I like that we play to win, but it’s with great sportsmanship, too.”

Steve Hurshman’s wife, Janae, will team with Randy today in the Mixed Family High School division, where they’ll take on Eileen and Ben Arja.

Technically, there are only three Hurshmans playing in the tourney, but Steve Hurshman said of Espinoza, “Amy is Randy’s girlfriend, and she’s like a daughter to me, so it was natural to play father/daughter.”

Could be tourney’s Finale

The fun factor at the McDonald’s Family Summer Classic is obvious, but getting enough participants and being able to schedule the tourney at a time that can draw more players has become increasingly difficult.

That’s why Kathy Elliott, one of the tournament organizers, said it saddens her to say this may be the classic’s last year.

“With school starting sooner (in Grand Junction) and two other big tournaments each summer and such a short window for scheduling, it’s tougher to fit it in,” she said.

The tournament was postponed from its original date in July in hopes of getting more participants, and the move worked. Elliott said the numbers climbed from 22 registrants for the original date to 46 for this weekend.

Elliott said McDonald’s has been a wonderful sponsor of the family tourney, and she hopes to find another way for McDonald’s to help the Grand Junction tennis community.

If the tournament is indeed in its final year, Tarek Arja and Steven Hurshman each said that would be a shame.

Ben Arja added the belief that tennis is too expensive to play is an outdated mindset.

“I think it’s a lot more affordable now,” he said, adding equipment is less expensive, and the Elliott family does a great job of helping kids who don’t have money play the game.

If the summer classic ends this year, then 43-year-old Kim Leane and her 10-year-old daughter, Emily, chose the right time to debut in the tourney.

“I was really excited to play,” Kim said, “because she’s my oldest daughter and she’s been playing tennis, and I wanted her to experience what a tournament is like.”

Emily spoke up at that point and said, “And I really liked it. Even though I didn’t win, I had a lot of fun learning how it works.”


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