The tennis community in the Ashland area and beyond comes together each July to compete in the Elks Lodge Invitational Open Tennis Tournament, a doubles competition that began over 20 years ago and is now held in memory of longtime former Ashland High School coach William “Bill” Osmak, who passed away in 2012.
High school, college, and recreational players have fun and test their skills, and friends and family members team up and play against each other.
The younger teams fared especially well this year, in fact, with Ashland sisters Sydney and Taylor Vyskocil pairing up to win the women’s tournament.
“It was really great seeing so many young people playing in the draws because Bill was all about getting young people out playing tennis,” said former Ashland High School standout tennis player Scott Tolliver, who won both the men’s and mixed doubles titles at this year’s event.
The 2019 edition of the tournament began on Saturday morning at 7:30 a.m. at the Chequamegon Bay Golf Club and AHS, and play continued until almost 6 p.m. Most of the players live in Ashland, but some traveled from as far away as Superior, Medford and Madison.
While the competitors hoped to advance as far as possible in the tournament, the atmosphere remained light-hearted. Opponents applauded each other’s good shots and even joked around a bit. The players and spectators had a laugh when AHS alum Jacob Erickson accidentally hit a ball that flew over the chain-link fence, bounced off a tree, and landed back in the court.
The tournament consisted of two women’s, seven men’s, and nine mixed teams, and many players competed in two events, which meant that some had as many as six matches in one day. Steve Schraufnagel, the tournament’s director since its inception, set up the three brackets.
Ashland tennis coach Bob Graf teamed up with one of his players, AHS junior Abby Davidson, while many other high school players and recent graduates who played for Ashland also took part, along with some returning college students. Recent AHS graduate Carson Honkala won the men’s final with Tolliver. Both new and returning players to the tournament got a chance to work on their skills while celebrating the legacy of the former coach.
“It was really fun to play with a variety of people,” recent high school graduate Eva Oreskovich of Washburn said after winning her first mixed final with Tolliver. “I never got to know Bill. I never met him, but it was really neat to hear people reminisce about him.”
Fees collected from the tournament go toward the upkeep of the courts at the Chequamegon Bay Golf Club.
The next local doubles tournament will take place August 3-4 in Washburn. Sign-up forms can be picked up at Washburn’s upper and lower tennis courts.