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Thursday, May 5, 2016

Players turn out for Haley Bain Open

Saturday, July 16, 2011

J.D. Briones eyes the ball during the Haley Bain Memorial Open Friday at South Putnam High School. The tournament will conclude today with doubles matches. [Order this photo]
For the second straight year players gathered at South Putnam for the Haley Bain Memorial Open Friday morning. The players were greeted by a pristine sky and good action on the courts.

The tournament was the brainchild of recent South Putnam graduate Kendra Latham after the community lost Haley Bain to an ATV accident last May. The two girls were teammates on the South Putnam tennis team and Latham knew she had to do something to honor her friend.

Last year the tournament was able to donate $4,500 to the Haley Bain Memorial Scholarship and Kendra and her mother Rita hope to equal or surpass that this year. In its first year the tournament was blessed with a good turnout by both players and sponsors and this year was no different.

Latham said she was a little worried getting sponsors this year would be tougher, but said she soon realized everyone was back on board.

"It's an awesome feeling," she said. "I'm not going to lie, when we started off this year I was kind of worried because, of course last year when it was new and fresh, we didn't really have any second thoughts about not having sponsors. This year we were kind of worried that we would have to really, really talk to sponsors and pry them into giving us sponsorships, but we really didn't have to. Everyone was more than happy to give us stuff again this year, which as an awesome feeling."

Latham said this year's tournament came together smoothly since she knew what to expect. Asked if working on last year's tournament has this year's version simpler, Latham was quick to answer.

"Most definitely," she said with a laugh. "We actually commented after we got it all set up. Last year we didn't know where we wanted everything. We didn't know how the signups were going to be or anything. This year it just came together. The players showed up a little early, but we knew what to do and got them out on court without even thinking.

"It was so much easier today getting everything set up than it was last year. It just kind of flew together," Latham said.

The opening day of the tournament saw players ranging in age from nine-years old to 50 and from the Terre Haute, Brazil and Greencastle area coming out to compete. A cousin of Haley's came all the way from Tennessee to take part in the tournament as well.

Latham is headed to college this fall and said she's not completely sure about the fate of the tournament, but hopes it will live on in some capacity. She said she'd like to possibly see a committee head up the tournament and said the groundwork has been laid for someone to step into the role.

What started as a simple idea has morphed into something Latham couldn't have imagined.

"We had no idea what we were getting ourselves into," Latham said. "We started last summer and I thought 'This will be something really fun we can do' and thinking it would be just local sponsors, a couple hundred dollars -- nothing major.

"Then we started getting sponsors in from Wilson, Penn, K-Swiss and HEAD -- I had no idea it would go this far," she said.

After making the rounds dealing with sponsors, Latham said the realization of what she's been part of finally hit her.

"Honestly, I didn't realize how much people were impressed by it until this year when they were like 'We'd be more than happy to donate this because we know how hard you've worked'. Honestly, it didn't hit me until that moment -- it was recognized by so many people," Latham said.

While Latham deserves credit for being a major factor in the tournament getting off the ground, she wanted to acknowledge her appreciation of the effort her mother put into it.

"I really appreciate all of the work my mom did for the tournament this year," Latham said. "If it wasn't for her, the tournament would not have taken place this year. She was the one who organized all of our sponsors and even though I didn't always acknowledge that fact, I want her to know that all of the work she has done for the tournament means the world to me."

The Haley Bain Memorial Open will conclude today with doubles play at South Putnam High School.