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Hideaway Beach tennis pro-am helps in the fight

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You raise the bar, it takes determination and commitment to execute.

Not a new sentiment, but over at Hideaway Beach, a private gated community on Marco, it’s all about pulling more and more money each year to donate for the fight against cancer.

Traditionally, Hideaway Beach holds top contribution spot among the various teams whose fundraising efforts culminate at the annual Relay for Life (set this year for April 9 from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. at Mackle Park). Before the weekend, they were neck and neck with the Marriott team, with the ‘Fight Like a Girl’ team showing strongly in third and with a big fundraiser to come.

Overall, Hideaway Beach is close to $1 million collected over the past decade.

This year, its Cancer Committee decided on a pro-am tennis tournament, with the amateurs paying sizeable amounts for the privilege of coaching and playing with area pros.

Top pro was Naples’ Jesse Witten, who played the ATP tour seriously until about four years ago, and along the way played against the likes of Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic and Marcos Baghdatis.

These days, he remains ranked, but coaches mostly at a local Naples academy.

The Lely High School graduate and highly successful college player said he enjoyed the Hideaway Beach tournament, and was mindful of the underlying reason for staging it.

“It’s nice that we can help out with events like this,” said the affable Witten, who occasionally let loose with booming shots aimed at the pro on the opposite side of the court, but was more judicious with the amateurs. “Because it’s for a good cause, it makes it so much better.”

Watching the tennis, Hideaway Cancer Committee member Claire Babrowski said the fundraising format had in the past focused mainly on golf (with Hideaway members as paying players) but that the plan this year was to attract (tennis) players and spectators from Marco and beyond.

Amateurs paid $175 for morning clinics with the pros, and also bid online for spots in the tournament. Determined bidders could buy spots outright for $1,500, Babrowski said.

Sunday saw a “golf ball drop” from the ladder of a Marco Fire Department engine, with four of the 400 balls actually sinking; a “goofy golf” tournament, and later a formal dinner and auction.

Committee chair Betsy Beaver was happy with the way the weekend played out, and said money collected looks like a record over past years.

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