When Matt Wayton took to the Southington High School tennis courts in 2005, he found a passion that he had been looking for his whole life. Winning didn’t matter – the team was not very good, he admits – but that didn’t stop anyone from enjoying the sport.
It’s that passion that the Plantsville resident, now 25, hopes to instill in the community with his annual tournament, the Wayton Open, and six years in, the tournament has become a popular attraction in the community.
“It’s all about just having fun,” Wayton said. “Our only goal is to share with others the love that we have for tennis and getting everyone together.”
Wayton was just 20-years-old when he came up with the idea to host the annual tournament. Talking with friends and family, the competition drew 24 people and was completed in a single day, but it was a start to something bigger.
“When we first started this tournament, our goal, our plan was to find a way to bring alumni and former tennis players back together,” he said. “It has grown from there, allowing us to gain sponsorships and we will now be offering a scholarship to a graduating tennis player.”
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The annual tournament has quickly grown into a summer staple in the community, with drawing competitors from across the northeast in 2011. With the help of about a dozen friends and other passionate volunteers including Gianna Gurga, who played at St. Joseph’s College in West Hartford and is now the Crosby High girls tennis coach, and Wayton’s fiancée Joanna Rabiej.
In 2011, the tennis tournament drew 80 participants including 20 women as it expanded for the fourth consecutive year.
The success comes as no surprise to those who know Wayton, who works for the Cheshire YMCA and aspires to be a recreation some day. They said he has been motivated from the start and his goals include doubling the tournament again this year.
Gurga and Rabiej each said they believe Wayton now has the support from the community necessary to take his event to the next level.
The 2012 Wayton Open, which will take place July 20-22 and July 27-29, has already received numerous sponsorships from businesses such as . These sponsorships provide for everything from the balls used during the tournament to water, snacks and meals for all of the participants. In addition, he said recent success will allow the tournament to begin presenting two $250 scholarships per year to graduating seniors, starting with the class of 2012.
“It’s been great to watch it grow, but I have bigger dreams,” Wayton said. “I hope to see it one day grow to the level of the Filipek Tournament (in Wallingford). They have 700 people each year and that’s where we would like this tournament to eventually be.”
What the tournament needs now is competitors – and the time has come for people to sign up.
All registration is done online and participants, who must be amateur players, may sign up for singles or doubles competitions. There are male and female categories as well for the 2012 tournament.
Cost is $10 for singles and $20 for doubles. Regisitration is now open online at www.waytonopen.com until July 14. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or Matt Wayton at (704) 975-9652 for any questions.
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