A peek at the action from the director of tennis
Kyle Thortsen played his first tennis match in middle school and never looked back. He played through high school, earned a scholarship to college, and then became a tennis pro. His life is on the court and his passion is getting others out there with him. Here, Thortsen discusses his favorite topic with McConnell Golf The Magazine.
Tell me about you. What’s your tennis background?
I’m from Charlotte, North Carolina — born and raised. I started playing tennis when I was in middle school. I played all four years of high school and got a scholarship to Catawba College in Salisbury, North Carolina.
After school, I went back to Charlotte and worked in the tennis industry. In the spring of 2011, I got the opportunity to go to Durham, North Carolina to join McConnell Golf at Treyburn as the assistant pro. I helped the current staff build that program and regrow it. In March 2015 I moved to Wakefield Plantation, and now I’m the director of tennis for the entire company.
What characterizes McConnell tennis programs?
In the past, all of the clubs have operated with their own fingerprint. One of the great things about McConnell Golf is that we have these other properties that our members can go to and enjoy. On the tennis side, we haven’t done a very good job of promoting that. As we go into the future, our goal is to show off how great the company is and how great our properties are by taking groups to other clubs and traveling around. We don’t want clubs to stop operating as their own entities, but we do want to help each other out. We want to show members how much they have at their fingertips. You just have to travel a little bit, which can be a lot of fun.
What sorts of trips do you have planned?
This year, we have two ladies’ weekends. [One weekend trip happened in late April to The Country Club of Asheville.] In October a group will go to Old North State for a little tennis boot-camp. We’ll rent out the lodges for the ladies to stay in for the weekend, and we’ve also lined up a college tennis match as an added entertainment feature. Those weekends are a way to experience something different from just an everyday tennis program.
We’re also going to take a group trip to the Winston-Salem Open in August. We had the first McConnell Day at the tournament last year and it was a lot of fun. We had about 25 members gather in Winston-Salem, North Carolina — we tailgated in the parking lot and then watched the matches all day. I can’t wait for that this year.
Are there any other standout programs you’re excited about?
We’re hosting tournaments at our facilities all year. They’ll be city tournaments, where both members and non-members can qualify. It’s a great way to show off how fantastic McConnell Golf clubs are. Tournaments provide a competitive atmosphere for a weekend, which is a fun and different format for our members to take part in, whether they’re playing or watching. All of our clubs will host several tournaments this year.
Where do the junior players fit into all of this?
Junior golfers have a McConnell Golf scholarship opportunity, and we’re introducing that on the tennis side, as well. This is an awesome opportunity for our younger players. We’re going to start with Wakefield Plantation, The Country Club of Asheville, Sedgefield Country Club, and Providence Country Club. Ask your club’s tennis pro for the details.
What keeps you going and inspired when managing tennis programs at a dozen different clubs?
The access our members have to go to these other clubs any time they want is so unique. That ability to use other facilities allows them to pursue their passion for the sport in different settings and meet great people across the clubs. That’s a community that I’m very excited to help foster.
Instruction Insight: A tip from Kyle about doubles play
“For the average club doubles player, constancy and placement are the keys to success. Many players become impatient while playing and compensate by using power to end a point. Instead, stay calm. The baseline player should look to keep the ball cross-court — aim to have the ball travel four feet above the net. This will result in a deep shot that will back your opponent off the court and allow your partner to move to the center for an easy put-away volley.”