12th annual SES Tennis Center Fundraising Pro-Am returns Sept. 22-23

Rancho Valencia Resort & Spa’s head tennis professional, Eduardo Sanchez, is hoping to net plenty of support for an annual charity event.

The 12th annual SES Tennis Center Fundraising Pro-Am is scheduled for Sept. 22-23 at the resort, which features a sponsor party and tennis tournament. Monies raised will benefit the SES Tennis Center in Tecate, Mexico – named for Sanchez’s stillborn son, Sean Eduardo Sanchez – and the Empty Cradle organization, which provided support to the Sanchez family after their loss.

This year’s event will be even more bittersweet for Sanchez. His father, Salomon Sanchez Hernandez –who was instrumental in supporting him with the tournament, the tennis center and Empty Cradle –passed away in April.

“It’s going to be tough,” Sanchez said. But “his spirit will always be here.”

The tennis center – established in 2004 – fulfilled a lifelong dream for Sanchez. The Tecate native took an interest in the sport when he was 16, while working as a bellboy at the Rancho La Puerta resort in 1978. With the money he earned from his job, Sanchez bought his first tennis racquet at Kobey’s Swap Meet at the San Diego Sports Arena (now the Valley View Casino Center). He watched resort guests take lessons from the teaching pros, and listened to the teachers coach their students. Sanchez also studied televised matches and read magazines. His methodology paid off, as Sanchez joined the Mountain Empire High School (San Diego) tennis team, and then went on to play for San Diego City College for two years while studying physical education. After college, he returned to Rancho La Puerta to teach as a tennis pro for five years, and then became head tennis professional with former top Australian player Ken Rosewall at Rancho Valencia when the resort opened in 1989.

“Never in my wildest dreams I thought they would hire me,” Sanchez said due to his unorthodox rise as a self-taught pro. He noted that he was competing against more than 70 professionals for the position, and he obtained 43 letters of recommendation from high-profile clients at Rancho La Puerta. “It was one of the most incredible days of my life.”

Sanchez went on to receive accolades for his teaching and community service, and he founded the Rancho Valencia Junior Tennis Academy, but it was his establishment of the SES Tennis Center with his wife, Amelia, that is perhaps his crowning achievement.

The roots for the center began at Sean’s funeral in 1999, which was attended by many of Sanchez’s resort connections. Sanchez said he revealed his dream of building one or two public tennis courts in Tecate to Doug Pardee, owner of Pardee Homes. According to Sanchez, Pardee offered $15,000, which was matched by Rancho Valencia. More funds rolled in and, eventually, Sanchez had $95,000 to build two hard (cement) courts.

The SES Tennis Center opened on June 6, 2004, and has since flourished. Among the talented players who have graced the courts is 13-year-old Eugenio Gonzalez, one of the top-ranked youths in Mexico who is now playing for the U.S. Tennis Association (USTA).

Eugenio may be a quiet kid, but “he is not afraid of anybody” on the courts, Sanchez said. “He’s going to do well in the U.S.”

The teen will be among the players in the 12th annual SES Tennis Center Fundraising Pro-Am, along with professionals such as former top-ranked doubles player and Davis Cup winner Rick Leach.

An average of $45,000 to $50,000 is raised every year for the center through the tournament. Funds go toward tennis equipment and maintenance and operation costs, and, in 2011, Sanchez was able to add two artificial clay courts. Anyone can play at the center, but the priority is the youths, he said. About 120 participate in the center’s summer program – with 85 percent to 90 percent of them qualifying for free tuition – and an average of 100 to 150 kids are enrolled on an annual basis.

The SES Tennis Center Fundraising Pro-Am will kick off with the sponsor party from 6 to 9:30 p.m. Sept. 22 at a private residence in Rancho Santa Fe. Amateurs, pros, sponsors and other guests will mingle in a “very relaxed” atmosphere, Sanchez said.

“We come together, have fun, and get to know each other,” he added.

There will be a dinner and a silent auction with items such as skateboards from Tony Hawk and X Games bronze medalist Mitchie Brusco, Hansen Surfboards, and baseballs and bats signed by players.

The tournament festivities will be from 1 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. Sept. 23 at Rancho Valencia, with player registration starting at noon. Twenty-four teams – each composed of one amateur and one pro – will compete for a trophy. There will be an open division of eight players, an eight-player women’s division (4.0 or 4.5 USTA ranking) and an eight-player men’s division (4.0 and 4.5). A barbecue will be held after the tournament.

The cost for amateur players to attend the sponsor party and enter the tournament is $400. Tickets for those who are interested in attending the party and watching the players in action are $185 per person. The barbecue is included in the price.

“I’m happy to give back to the community in Tecate and here,” said Sanchez, who now resides in Carmel Valley with Amelia and their children, Siana Raquel and Kian Eduardo.

For more information about the event and the tennis center, contact Sanchez at (760) 415-6399 or tktpro1@gmail.com. Visit sestenniscenter.org

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