Shiffletts Make Anthem Challenge a Family Affair
By John Packett, RTA Contributing Writer
For Jeff Shifflett, his wife, Peggy, and daughter, Christina, the Anthem Challenge is truly a family affair.
All three of them will be on the Westwood Club courts this weekend trying to earn points for Burkwood when the 20th annual competition takes place Friday through Sunday to determine the top tennis club in the city.
Jeff will be playing No. 2 doubles in the men’s 4.0 division with Dean Dail, while Peggy and Christina make up the No. 1 team in the women’s 4.0 group.
“We play tennis,” said Jeff, a veteran of a number of Anthem Challenges, along with Peggy. “That’s all we do.”
In fact, Jeff didn’t start playing tennis until he met Peggy some 25 years ago.
“When I met my husband, I told him he had to learn how to play,” said Peggy, 55. “Actually, I taught him how to play. It took him about two or three years but he finally beat me. And he’s beaten me ever since. He’s gotten really good. He’s got a lot of junk.”
Jeff, 57, disagrees about the length of time it took for him to beat Peggy, who played on the team at Varina High School. He had played other sports like baseball, football and golf growing up in Dinwiddie County before trying tennis.
“We went up to Varina one day and hit some, and ever since then we’ve been hooked on it,” said Jeff. “It didn’t take no two years for me to beat her either. If I had waited two years, I would have given up and tried another sport.
“She’s only 5-5 and I’m almost 6-foot, so I should be able to run down more balls.”
Both of them have contributed their share of points over the years for Burkwood.
Peggy and Christina went 2-1 last year. Christina, 21, played in the top three for Atlee High School for four years.
“Christina is an awesome player,” said her mother. “She’s been playing on the 5.0 team with Ed Butterworth [Burkwood head pro]. She plays with all the big guns. She’s going to be moved up this year, so I won’t be able to play with her any more in the club challenge.”
In addition to being able to play with Christina, Peggy says she really enjoys the camaraderie during the weekend.
“We just love the whole atmosphere there,” she said. “It’s always been a great fun time. Great people. A lot of good food. It’s kind of like a little tennis mini-vacation.”
Added Jeff, “Everybody knows everybody. It’s one big family. Even though we play each other hard, everybody gets along. Vary rarely does anybody stay mad at anybody. It’s the same people, and it’s just always a lot of fun.
“One of my goals every year is to try and make the team. I’m getting older now, so I’m going to have to start getting really young partners. It’s something we look forward to every year. When we’re not in it, it really upsets us.”
Jeff was a member of Burkwood’s 7.0 team that won the North American Mixed Doubles Championships in Princeton, N.J., and also on one of Burkwood’s 4.0 teams that advanced to the USTA League Nationals in San Diego.
ACAC has won the past two Anthem events and will be gunning for the triple this weekend. The only other time a team has won more than two in a row was when Briarwood (which became ACAC) claimed four straight from 1995-98.
Play begins at 8 a.m. each day and should wrap up around dark on Sunday evening.
There will be a player party and silent auction on Thursday from 6:30-9:30 p.m. A couple of 5.0 men’s matches will kick off the event at 6.
In addition to ACAC and Burkwood, the rest of the field includes the Country Club of Virginia, Dominion Club, Hermitage CC, Midlothian Athletic Club, Midlothian Tennis Club, Raintree Swim and Racquet Club, Salisbury CC, Westwood, Willow Oaks CC and Woodlake Swim and Racquet Club.