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Former FGCU tennis ace takes on new roles in career and life

Randy Kambic
Special to Coastal Life

In December 2014, Jennifer Owenby became tennis shop receptionist and activities coordinator at The Forest Country Club under the helm of the tennis pro who had previously helped her.

Fred Kangwa, director of tennis at The Forest Country Club, will soon be missing his assistant, Jennifer Owenby, 26, as will all residents due to her two positions at the community.

Six months later, she also took on the role of lifestyle activities director for the South Fort Myers community, and her duties in both positions have kept growing.

Soon, she’ll begin another new chapter — motherhood — and judging by her career successes, she should be a winner in this capacity as well.

The foundation for her rapid work-related ascent began when she was 16 and attending the Evangelical Christian School after moving to Fort Myers from Miami the year before.

“I picked up tennis again after I had played other sports like volleyball for about five years, and started training at The Forest with Fred Kangwa,” she said. “He knew I wanted to play college tennis so he got me ready, especially with strategy as I missed that aspect while I’d been away from the game.”

Fred Kangwa, director of tennis at The Forest Country Club, will soon be missing his assistant, Jennifer Owenby, 26, as will all residents due to her two positions at the community.

She made the FGCU women’s team as a walk-on in 2008 and played all four years, achieving second team all-Atlantic Sun Conference for doubles, and all-academic and team captain honors her senior year in 2012, graduating with a degree in psychology.

Expanded

Her tennis responsibilities at The Forest have expanded to include creating and managing events; buying shop products; conducting weekly communications with members on all activities; working closely with membership director Laurie Mellor to enlist new tennis members, and grabbing her racket to complete round robin spots when needed.

“Fred and I work together closely to ensure that mixers, round robins and tournaments are organized and coordinated properly,” said Owenby, who just turned 26.

She also participated with Kangwa and Doug Welsh, coordinator of Collier and Bonita leagues, in a doubles’ tips video that’s posted on swfla-tennis.com.

“I’m thrilled to see a young person grow like she has, branch out to do other things,” said Kangwa, a USPTA and USPTR certified pro in his 16th year at The Forest of her dual role at the club. “It’s a little like tennis strategy being applied to life.”

Owenby’s other position includes creating and managing recreational and educational lifestyle activities ranging from painting classes and other club events to group trips to the Barbara B. Mann Performing Arts Center, Artis—Naples and other area attractions; publishing the Through the Trees newsletter, including department updates and upcoming events, and assisting the bocce committee and fellow staff to ensure maximum play that encompasses 300-plus members during busy season.

“Our lifestyle activities schedule is meant to involve every type of member,” she added.

“We quickly learned when she started that her skill set posed a lot more potential,” said Scott Bertrand, general manager of The Forest. “She immediately adapted to our culture and environment.

“With her great education and how she quickly did more in the tennis department, we felt she could handle multi-faceted work at a whole new level,” Scott said, adding that the responsibilities for the lifestyles position were expanded to include planning, promoting and conducting activities.

Light doubles

Her husband and “high school sweetheart,” Micah, a manager of analytics and sales with Hertz, “has been with me through the whole journey. He also loves coming out on weekends, helping us set up for events.”

With a due date of Aug. 15, “I’m just playing light doubles now with members and hope to continue as long as I can and also help Fred with junior camp sessions as long as I stay fully hydrated,” Owenby said.

Looking toward the fall: “Scott and Fred are very flexible. When I come back, I’ll especially look forward to teaching more, especially kids.” It’s certain that adult members will welcome the return of her far-reaching impact as well.

Beyond the gates:

The Estero Country Club at The Vines will conduct youth tennis camps June 13-Aug. 4 for ages 6 to 16 at all skill levels ... Three Oaks Tennis Center at Barbara Manzo Park in South Fort Myers will host youth tennis camps directed by Sibo Kangwa the weeks of June 20, July 4, 11, 18, 25 and Aug. 1. Visit the center’s section at lccta.org.