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Bloor/Ortner Memorial tournament going strong

Mark Hazelwood • Aug 28, 2014 at 3:49 PM

It may take a lot of work, but John Schlessman and Greg Avery know it's worth every minute.

Schlessman, the girls varsity tennis coach at Perkins, and his assistant coach Avery, are two of several people who help organize the annual Ortner/Bloor Memorial tennis tournament.

The event is in its fifth year, and is held in late July each year in memory of Pat Ortner and Jep Bloor.

Ortner was the tennis director at Baywinds Athletic Club for nearly 20 years until his sudden death at the age of 43 on Feb. 10, 2010. Bloor worked in the advertising department at the Register for 22 years, and was an avid competitive tennis player. He also died unexpectedly a little more than a month after Ortner on March 14, 2010.

Nearly 100 players ranging from ages 9-to-60 registered to compete in this weekend's tournament, which began Friday and is scheduled to conclude Sunday at both the Perkins High School and Baywinds sites.

“Pat was my daughter Amy's first tennis coach, and taught so many kids for years at Baywinds,” Schlessman said. “He was a great person, and a very knowledgeable teacher who had a great way of teaching to younger kids. He was very easy going and friendly.

“Jep had a great sense of humor and was a great tennis player,” he added. “He played a lot of competitive USTA tennis with his friends. They played all over the place, and he had two daughters (Mary and Nancy) who played at Huron. Just a great family.”

Schlessman noted the tournament is one of the only ones around open to the public, and hopes it helps grow the sport.

“Greg (Avery) does a phenomenal job running it, and this being probably one of the only public tennis tournaments in the area,” he said. “We're ecstatic to have nearly 100 players here this weekend. Quite a few are playing in two different divisions, and it's a good range of players having fun. We have some college players here too, so it's a good combination of skill and age level.”

Avery, who is chiefly responsible for the scheduling of the tournament, as well as keeping track of the scores, knew Ortner from attending basketball games together years ago. But one of the biggest reasons he put so much time in is for Al's Clinics, which is run by Schlessman and his wife Lori in honor of their late son Alan, who died suddenly in 2003.

“A lot of it is just the memory of him, and because Al's Clinics is a great organization,” Avery said. “We've got about 100 people paying to be in the tournament, and it can be a lot trying to get around everyone's work schedules. Our tournament schedule is constantly changing, but as long as everyone enjoys it, it's fun. I'm here for the enjoyment of helping out.”

Schlessman briefly talked about Al's Clinics and why this weekend is so important, not only for the memory of Ortner and Bloor, but also for the future.

“Our organization runs this, and we're non-profit, so all our money goes right back to the youths of Sandusky,” Schlessman said. “This is our only fundraiser of the year, and people have been wonderful.

“We hope this helps grow the sport and puts a platform out there for tennis,” he added. “It's for helping with clinics and camps and equipment, which any parent well knows is very expensive. We try to jump in there when the need arises, and try to do it very quietly to help out any way we can.”

The Bloor/Ortner tourney is sponsored by nearly a dozen local businesses, including Baywinds and the Register, along with Hy-Miler, Friendship Stores, Cameo, Manny's, Hoty Enterprises, Aha Creative, Schlessman Seeds, Da-Vi Nails and Manickam Manickam.

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