SUMTER, S.C. — Young women from 20 different countries are in Sumter right now, battling it out on the tennis courts for the Palmetto Pro Open. The tournament is celebrating 15 years
The Palmetto Pro Open started in Sumter in 2008. Now, 15 years later, it brings players from all across the country to the Palmetto Tennis Center.
"It does bring a lot of economic impact to the city of Sumter," Brian Hodge says.
Hodge is the tournament director. It started as a $10,000 tournament, and now this is the first year that the players will be able to split $60,000, which is drawing even more people to Sumter.
"This is our 15th year of running the Palmetto Pro Open. It's quite an honor that the usta has basically allowed us to bump it up to a 60k," Hodge explains. "This is our first year running it as a 60k."
Previously, the winners of the Palmetto Pro would split $25,000. With more money comes a bigger interest in the tournament, Hodge says.
"The pros will come with a team, usually a coach, and like you said family member, mom, dad, sometimes both, sometimes siblings, but all of those fill the hotels that we have here, local hotels and of course they're spending money in the local businesses and that's really a major connection to what the facility does for the city of Sumter," Hodge explains. "Some of the top women in the world basically are coming from 20 different countries to compete here and it's really a launching board for them."
"Traveling is tough, but I think I think that's what it is and we're used to it so much doing it over the years," tennis player Karman Thandi shares.
Thandi came all the way from India to compete against some of the best 14- to 28-year-old women tennis players in the world.
"I think it's great because I mean, it's a big tournament," Thandi shares. "It's a $60,000 and you know, some of the best players are here. So now, competing against good players is obviously going to you better as well."
With tennis fans like Phil Landfried coming out to the Palmetto Tennis Center to see the action in person.
"They’re so much more impressive in person than when you watch it on TV," Landfried shares. "The three dimensional look is so much much better. So I just love it."
Hodge tells me it’s one of only nine $60,000 tournaments in the United States.
"It's really special to have especially a small town to be able to draw a tournament and these players...from all over the world, and really to be able to be part of their successes and their careers," Hodge says. "It's really something that a lot of people don't realize the entertainment value that they have right here in their backyard in South Carolina in general."
Spectators can get free access to come watch.
"Anybody that has a chance can come and watch this. I mean, obviously it’s free, doesn't cost anything," Landfried smiles. "You kind of get up close to the matches and see what's going on. It just…I don't know I think it would excite anybody. Whether you play tennis or not, I think it would really enjoy it."
The tournament is continuing every day through Sunday.