When Scotland High School tennis player Chris McLean lost his life in a tragic car accident roughly 12 years ago, it sparked a collaborative effort between the McLean family and the Scotland County Tennis Association to create a tournament in his honor.
The ‘Chris McLean Memorial’ tournaments have been going strong ever since, utilizing the funds collected from the annual events to support the continuing promotion of youth tennis in the local community
After the ‘Junior Futures’ tournament commenced the weekend of Oct.26, it became apparent that the legacy of McLean has continued to endure. And with interest in local youth tennis at an all-time high, the money generated by the tournament has never been more vital.
“The Scotland County Tennis Center played a big part in forming who Chris was as a person and athlete,” said Steve McLean, the father of Chris. “It was an all-around great outlet for my son to compete in a wholesome environment, and it continues to be that for many of the kids in this area. These tournaments have always been about the kids.”
The second of two yearly tournaments held in honor of McLean, the 2012 Junior Futures singles tournament welcomed 36 youth competitors aged 16 years or younger, with seven of those residing in Scotland County.
Out of the seven local residents that demonstrated their burgeoning skills, five managed to place high in the tournament and earn championship honors.
In the boy’s 16 year-old bracket, Jacob Blackman would win first place, while Jace Boda (brother of Fighting Scots’ tennis standout Josiah) finished on top of the 14 year-old competition.
12 year-old Scotland County resident Will Bode won his respective bracket as well, besting out Spence Lynch and Alex Gantt to finish in first place.
A pair of Scotland County sisters also took center precedence at the tournament over the weekend. Carleigh Carter would finish second in the 10 year-old bracket behind Kelcie Farmer, and when the dust settled on younger sister Kate’s 8 year-old tournament, she found herself sharing a split of first place with Kasey and Alexa Cone.
All told, the tournament was sponsored by 13 local businesses and managed to rake in more than $3300.
According to Scotland County Tennis Center director Tom Sheller, the money collected by the tournament will go towards a variety of current and future endeavors, all geared towards local youth. In perhaps another sign of the local youth tennis resurgence, the tennis center will use a portion of the funds to purchase nets, rackets and balls to be used at elementary schools in the surrounding communities.
Most notably, Washington Park Elementary School in Laurinburg and Gibson, N.C.’s Pate Gardner Elementary School have recently signed on to incorporate tennis into their physical education programs, to begin before December of this year.
With the exciting plans in place to expand the scope of local youth tennis, McLean believes his son would be proud of the promising future his memory has helped spearhead.
“The goal of these tournaments is to help give kids the opportunities that Chris had to develop his love of tennis,” McLean said. “With the higher level of interest you’re seeing in the sport, it’s safe to say our mission is being accomplished.”