The Charlotte Badminton Club has been hosting The Charlotte Open for decades, but the Nov. 18 championship rounds will have a noticeably different vibe.
For the first time in 30 years or so, the CBC is putting up prize money for winners of its annual tournament.
CBC leaders believe an upgrade in The Charlotte Open’s appeal and prestige may cost the club some of its own money.
The championship matches at Hickory Grove Elementary will start at 9 a.m.
The tournament started Nov. 16. Close to 100 men, women and youths will compete in up to 12 singles divisions and as many as 21 doubles sections.
Larger portions of the prize money – a $5,000 purse – will go to the winners and runners-up of the Open Divisions, which have no age restrictions. There also are sections for age-specific players in youth and senior categories.
Matthews resident Jim Greenlees, 72, has been a CBC member since 1968. He serves as The Charlotte Open’s tournament “referee,” arranging everything from registration to refreshments.
Greenlees says the one thing he is not responsible for is determining the brackets; he out-sources that responsibility to a tournament director in Boston who seeds players via computer.
Club President John Hewitt says the CBC has approximately 50-60 members with 20-25 people on a waiting list. Greenlees estimates that at least a dozen CBC members are playing in this weekend’s tournament.
The club plays recreationally at the Hawthorne Recreation Center three times a week, but it moves to the friendly confines of Hickory Grove Elementary School for The Charlotte Open. Tournament officials say they like the venue’s higher ceilings and air conditioning, and that its floor space is big enough for six games at the same time.
“I wanted to try (awarding prize money) because I thought we’d have players who normally wouldn’t come,” Greenlees said. “Our players come mostly from the East coast, as far up as Boston and as far west as Tennessee and Texas.
“I’ve seen other tournaments with prize money. Whether we lose money or not is not important. People are going to be coming in, and that’s important.”
The prize money is being compiled from player registration fees, but Greenlees says it probably won’t be enough to cover CBC’s costs for hosting the tournament.
CBC’s attempts at securing sponsors were limited to a badminton equipment company donating the shuttlecocks to be used in the tournament.
“If the tournament turns out okay, we’ll probably try to award prize money again next year,” said Greenlees. “And get more sponsorships.”
At least two players with high profiles among badminton’s faithful participants and followers are committed: Charmaine Reid and Nicole Grether make up Canada’s most formidable women’s doubles team.
Reid is a former Canadian Olympian, and the German-born Grether recently became a Canadian citizen. Together, they are ranked 36th in the world by the Badminton World Federation.
A BWF sanctioned referee, Greenlees officiates tournaments worldwide. He met Grether in the Netherlands about eight years ago. He encountered Grether and Reid at the Western NC Open in Franklin in June and invited them to play in Charlotte.
They will compete in both singles and doubles competition. Greenlees says he will try to persuade them to play a mixed doubles exhibition with a couple of lucky male partners.
Greenlees and his longtime doubles partner, Hewitt, a 70-year old Davidson resident, will be competing as well.
“Jim and I have been playing together for the last 8,573 years,” said Hewitt.