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Monday, May 02, 2016

Dinner for Four - Bolm Schuhkraft Park


As is common in springtime the St. Louis area was blanketed with thunderstorms on this late April day.   We exploited a gap in the storms and met our two friends Charles and Ben at Bolm Schuhkraft Park in Columbia, Illinois for an evening match on some lighted courts.  You might be asking where is Columbia, Illinois?  Its right across the Mighty Mississippi from Jefferson Barracks.   It is literally a 12 miles from downtown St. Louis to Columbia.

Columbia is an old community first populated by the Mound Builders then by the Kickapoo, the French and later populated by German immigrants.  The city itself was laid out in 1820 and incorporated in 1859.  Columbia has a rich history that you can read in detail at this link

Bolm Schuhkraft Park has many amenities besides tennis courts including ball fields, trails, pavilions, and bathrooms  The tennis courts are unusual because there are four courts with two different surfaces.  The first surface is Plexipave a cushioned surface and the second were traditional hardcourts recently resurfaced by McConnell and Associates.   The courts are lighted and have bathrooms and a grill just across the parking lot.

After taking the court situation into consideration we decided that we would grill the St. Louis specialty of Pork Steaks and then play our match on both court surfaces.   We quickly browned some pork steaks which were pre-rubbed with Ropers Ribs Rub( We discovered Ropers at Dwight Davis Park).  The steaks were then placed in an aluminum pan filled with a combination of Uncle Joes and Maull's sauces and left to simmer over the coals.

Stan opened up a can of Robin Soderling Balls... yup.  Robin Soderling has his own balls.........

The match began on the Plexipave court and Stan and Scott won the toss and elected to have Scott serve.  Scott took his first serve out wide and Charles(USTA 4.5) ripped a vicious down the line winner past Stan's outstretched racket.

Next serve to Ben(USTA 4.0) who ripped a sharply angled backhand shot that Scott could not handle.   The next point Charles hit a nice return and then volleyed away Scott's shot.   Love-40 after 3 points - things were not looking good.

Scott served Ben a knuckleball serve which somehow scooted under Ben's racket.  Then Stan hit a beautiful drop volley winner.   Scott served down the T and got Ben to hit a forehand wide.  Deuce - The battle was on.   This was the first of six deuces and finally Scott served into Ben's body to force an error and the comeback from Love-40 was complete. 1-0 good guys!

As we were playing a group of young folks were hanging out in the parking lot watching a quality tennis match.  Scott and Stan then broke Charles to go up 2-0 and then Stan was broken right back.  Ben was broken and then Scott was broken.   3-2 Scott and Stan.

Charles was broken again.   Stan held and Ben held putting Scott into position to serve for the set.  Unlike the first game Scott raced out to a 40-0 lead.  But then two great points were played by Ben and Charles and Scott thought... could this be the opposite of the first game where they come back from 40-0.

Nope a return error was coaxed out of Ben and the first set belonged to Scott and Stan 6-3.   The Plexipave was an interesting surface - a little slow and
with high bouncing balls.

The second set was started on the hard court with no warm up.   It became apparent right away that this was a faster court.  Charles dominated his first service game at love including an ace out wide to Scott's backhand.  Stan then had a great game with multiple deuces but could not hold on.

Scott held easily and then Ben was broken for a 2-2 score.   On Charles next serve Scott and Stan were able to elicit a break and played a crazy point retrieving at least 6 overheads and finally getting the point.  Stan was broken following that for a 3-3 score.   Ben held and Scott held for 4-4.

After Ben poached one of Scott's sliced backhands Scott sliced a ball down the line which caught Ben off guard because it skipped off the net.  Ben volleyed it back but Scott took it up the line again and it hit Ben's racket frame and went out of the court.

5-4 with Stan serving for the set.   Stan hit some great sharply angled serves to go up 40-0 and then Ben and Charles got back to 30-40 but were unable to finish the game.  Scott and Stan emerged victorious this time with a 6-3, 6-4 victory.

We immediately retired to the pavilion where our pork steaks, snacks and some adult beverages were waiting for us.  Great to spend time with and catch up with good friends. Charles shared his story of how he got into tennis by taking free lessons provided by the Lion's Club in rural Oklahoma.

If we had not prepared our own food on this beautiful spring evening,  Reifschneider's Grill and Grape or Bullys BBQ are all within a mile of these courts.

These are really nice courts.  Good location.  Nice Park.  The nets could use a little attention with net straps correctly installed.  Both court surfaces were in great shape.   Lights are older and probably could use some updating.   We would give the location a 10 and the condition a 9 for a score of 9.5.  The Soderling balls played very well although pretty fuzzy by the end of the match!



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