Hermitage Ends acac’s Anthem Cup Reign

By John Packett, RTA Contributing Writer

Hermitage Ends acac’s Anthem Cup Reign

With the specter of six-time champion acac looming over the Anthem Cup Club Challenge heading into the weekend of Sept. 22-24, Hermitage Country Club captain Mark Bernstine figured his team would be among the runners-up again.

         “I never imagined we would actually win,” said Bernstine. “We’ve always had a great time just coming and competing. Last year, I was surprised we came in second so I knew it was possible. Even this year, I didn’t think it would probably happen.”

         But it did. Getting plenty of help in the form of victories from the 4.5 division – 12 of 15 matches supplied two points – Hermitage edged acac 108 points to 106 to capture its first Anthem Cup on Sunday at the Westwood Club.

         “We always just have a lot of fun playing, even when we finished down near the bottom,” said Bernstine, director of tennis at the Goochland County club. “We’ve got such great members, and this is such a great event. Not many cities have anything like this.

         “But yeah, we just seemed to win a few more matches the past couple of years. This is just icing on the cake to be able to pull it off. ”

         A year ago, Hermitage tied for second with Westwood with 107 points, three behind acac.

         Hermitage took a four-point lead over the 12-club field after the first day with 38 points, getting mostly wins from the 4.0 division as well as the 4.5 group, but it dwindled to three points over acac going into the final day.

         “We’ve got more people joining out at Hermitage, so we’ve got more players,” said Bernstine, who added that the club’s tennis-playing membership is probably at an all-time high.

        One of those new members is Andy Todd, who played 4.5 mixed together all weekend with Mary Beth Edwards, and the duo supplied the clinching two points with an easy victory over a Salisbury Country Club duo.

         “First time we’ve ever played together,” said Edwards, with Todd adding, “She carried me like a sack of potatoes.”

         Added Edwards, “Andy dominated. I just got my returns in and let him do the rest.”

         Edwards is also a member at acac but plays Anthem Cup for Hermitage. Todd had previously played for Dominion Club.

         “I think it’s a sign that we’ve got more quality than quantity at Hermitage,” said Edwards. “They came out and gave a lot of heart, at all levels.”

         Chimed in Todd, “This is good for the club. It’s good for Mark and his staff. Good for my partner. She played great.”

         After Edwards and Todd made sure acac couldn’t catch Hermitage, Kevin Rotty and John Snead contributed two more points at the 5.0 men’s spot and Susan Hanson and Ryan Bernstine picked up the final point in the 5.0 mixed division.

         Playing in his third Anthem Cup Challenge for Hermitage, Joe Iuorno has seen the level of play improve.

         “There’s just more interest in our club to play tennis,” he said. “More people coming out of the woodwork that want to play. It’s been fun. A lot more people on the courts. I think between 3.0 and 4.5, there’s been a lot of resurgence of people getting into it.

         “Last year, we made a good push. Kind of put us on the map a little bit, and it got people fired up. This year, we came out and won.”

         Finishing third in the 25th annual Anthem Cup Challenge was host Westwood with 103 points, with Burkwood Swim and Racquet Club fourth (102). Dominion Club and Midlothian Athletic Club tied for fifth with 100 points.

         Woodlake Swim and Racquet Club was seventh with 99 points, followed by Salisbury (98), Country Club of Virginia (95), Willow Oaks Country Club and Raintree Swim and Racquet Club (each with 94) and Midlothian Tennis Club (88).

         The tournament, spread over three days, uses the U.S. Tennis Association rating system from 3.0 to 5.0 divisions in men’s, women’s and mixed doubles. Winners of each match receive two points and the losers get one.

         Over 500 players compete in the event, which is the largest of its kind in the state. The most interesting feature of the tournament is that the lowest divisions count just as much as the highest ones, creating an atmosphere of team spirit and camaraderie throughout the weekend.

         In the past, Hermitage has been known mostly as a golf club, with its beautiful 27 holes carved out of the Goochland countryside. With the Anthem Cup on the premises for the next 12 months, that is probably going to change to some degree.

         This is only Hermitage’s 15th year of competing for the prestigious trophy, and Bernstine said he remembers people coming up to him and saying, ’You sure you can field a team?’ I said, ‘Yeah, I think we can.’ So it’s neat going from there and seeing it build up over the years.”