It was billed as the Legends vs. Young Guns pro-am tennis exhibition, but Sunday’s match at Murray Country Club was a little friendlier than it sounded.
Frankfort brothers Henry and Palmer Collett squared off against Mel Purcell, a former top 20 tennis player, and University of Kentucky basketball legend Kyle Macy.
“It was not as much about competing as having fun,” said Palmer, who will be a senior at Western Hills in the fall. “If we won or didn’t win, we were trying to have fun and let everyone there have fun.”
Henry Collett, a 2016 graduate of Western Hills, is the tennis pro at Murray Country Club, and he’ll be a senior at Murray State this fall.
The exhibition was part of the reopening of the country club’s tennis courts, which had recently been resurfaced.
“There were a lot of people,” Palmer said. “They were opening up the courts, and it got people out to see the courts, have fun, eat some food and just hang out.
“It was really fun. I’d played Mel and Kyle before and knew everything they were going to do, but I’d never played doubles with them. They wanted to do it on Father’s Day, and that showed their commitment. They had fun, and me and Henry did too.”
Purcell and Macy won the exhibition 8-4. Purcell, who went to Murray High School, the University of Memphis and Tennessee, was the ATP Rookie of the Year and reached the quarterfinals at Wimbledon in 1983.
“I hit with Mel all the time,” Palmer said. “He was top 15 in the world. He’s definitely one of the best athletes to come out of Kentucky, I’d say.”
Purcell coached Murray State’s men’s tennis team and was the coach when the school dropped the program in 2016. Henry Collett had planned to play tennis at Murray, and he stuck with the school when the program was eliminated.
“Maybe 10% of the people there were for me and Palmer, and everyone else was for Mel and Kyle,” Henry said. “It was great. Mel was like a top 20, 25 player. Everyone knows Mel. We were just trying to keep the ball going.”
As a tennis pro, Henry spends more time teaching than playing the sport, and resurfacing the courts has drawn people’s attention.
“They weren’t in great shape, and they were talking about tearing them down,” Henry said of the courts, “but my dad came down and looked at them. He said the construction was solid, they probably just needed to be resurfaced.
“Since they finished the courts, membership has gone up, and they’ve gotten more who are rejoining (because of the courts). It’s one of the best courts around here, especially outdoor.”
A little over a week ago, 32 children arrived for lessons, so many that the youngsters had to be divided into two groups.
At the first clinic, when Henry was expecting three or four children, nine showed up.
“We're definitely seeing an upswing,” he said.
Henry, who is majoring in organizational communication with a minor in sports communication, has a short-term goal of becoming a member of an athletic department after graduation.
There are times when he misses playing tennis.
“Sometimes, but when I’m not playing well, I don’t,” Henry said. “I’ve had a few knee surgeries between high school and now, and that gives you a different perspective.
“I was a good player who didn’t play in college, and I’m fine with that. Things have a way of working out, and I don’t regret coming to Murray for sure.”