Belton Tennis and the Palmetto Championships
Belton is known throughout the state of South Carolina for it’s tennis heritage, which began in the early 1900’s. As a result, Belton is know as “The Tennis Capital of South Carolina” and became the home of the South Carolina Tennis Hall of Fame, located in the historic Depot Building, in 1983. Belton has produced top players for over 70 years and has hosted the Palmetto Championships, presented by Chick-fil-A of Anderson, the top junior tournament in the state, since 1957. The 2019 tournament will celebrate the Palmetto’s 63rd anniversary and will be played over Memorial Day weekend, May 24-27. Over 450 players are expected and almost 1,000 matches will be played on 48 courts at 9 sites in Belton, Anderson and Clemson. A number of other top tournaments are held in Belton each year and include:
- SPUD (Special Populations Unified Doubles) was started in 2010 and features special athletes from 4 southern states competing as teams with a unified partner over 2 days during the summer months. The 2019 SPUD Tournament will be played June 21 & 22.
- Chick-fil-A of Anderson Hall of Fame Classic features 8 of the state’s top high school girls teams competing as individuals and as a team over 2 days. The 2019 Hall of Fame Classic will be played September 28 & 29.
- South Carolina Men’s Collegiate Championships was first played in 2014 and features players from South Carolina colleges and universities competing individually over 3 days. The tournament is played in memory of longtime Belton tennis volunteer and collegiate referee Jim Russell. Teams expected to participate include Clemson, South Carolina, South Carolina State, Wofford, Furman, The Citadel, PC, Winthrop, Coastal Carolina, North Greenville, Newberry, Limestone, Coker and USC-Sumter. The 2019 tournament will be played October 4-6 and is sanctioned by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA).
The Belton Tennis Association has been recognized with several awards over the years:
- Recognized by the United States Lawn Tennis Association as having the best junior development program in the nation in the 1950’s.,
- Awarded the USTA South Carolina and USTA Southern Junior Tournament of the Year for the Palmetto Championships three times, including 2016. These awards are named in memory of Jim Russell, a longtime tennis volunteer who served as the Referee of the Palmetto for over 35 years.
- Awarded the USTA South Carolina and USTA Southern Team Event of the Year for the Hall of Fame Classic in 2012.
- Awarded the USTA South Carolina and USTA Southern Community Tennis Association of the Year in 2014.
The Belton Tennis Association also maintains and operates the 5-court Belton Tennis Center. The courts are open to the public at no charge both day and night. No play is allowed on Sunday morning before 12:00.
Lessons and clinics are available from Coach Chuck Waldron. Call or text Coach Waldron at 864-871-1808. Youth clinics for children ages 4 to 14 are offered in the spring and fall at a nominal cost.
More information on Belton tennis may be found at www.beltontennis.com.
The Belton Tennis Center and Leda Poore Park
The Belton Tennis Center Serves as the Center of tennis activities in Belton and is the headquarters for the Palmetto Championships. The 5 court facility and clubhouse is a public facility funded by private dollars and is open for play at no cost both day and night, except before noon on Sundays. The Belton Tennis Center is operated by the Belton Tennis Association, a 501-c-3 eleemosynary organization.
The Belton Tennis Club was organized and received its charter in 1954 and began opearting the 2 clay “town” courts. In the late 1950’s a 3rd court was added and they were converted to rubico. These 3 courts were resurfaced as hard courts in the late 1960’s and the facility was run entirely by volunteers until the late 1980’s when Chuck Waldron was hired by Blair Mills to run their fitness program at the mill and provide tennis lessons at the Belton Tennis Center. By 1989 plans were underway to add 2 new courts and a clubhouse, and these were dedicated during the 1992 Palmetto Championships. The project cost over $150,000, all coming from private donations. The tennis center went through another major reconstruction in 2004 when the original 3 courts and fences were demolished and rebuilt at a cost of $120,000, again all coming from private contributions.
The Belton Tennis Center is staffed by a part-time professional, Coach Chuck Waldron. He is available on Monday afternoons and evenings and may be reached by calling or texting his cell phone (864-871-1808). Clinics are offering for younger children throughout the year.
Leda Poore Park is a city park which was built in the mid-1970’s and included 5 tennis courts. The tennis facility was rebuilt and a 6th courts was added in 2014 with funds donated by the Timkin Foundation and the City of Belton at a cost of $250,000. These courts are available for play at no charge any time during daylight hours.
Belton is also the home of the South Carolina Tennis Hall of Fame, located in the historic train depot across the street from the Belton Tennis Center. The Hall of Fame is operating by the South Carolina Tennis Patrons Foundation and is open Wednesdays and Thursday 9 to 2, Fridays 9 to 4 and Saturdays 9 to 1. Check with the Museum Director in the North Gallery for entrance into the Hall of Fame.
For other tennis related questions, please e-mail Rex Maynard at [email protected] or call 864-314-9451.
South Carolina Tennis Hall of Fame
The South Carolina Tennis Hall of Fame was established in 1983 by South Carolina Tennis Association President Jim Russell and was opened in the south end of the Belton Depot in June, 1984. The Hall of Fame features portraits of the inductees painted by Belton native Wayland Moore as well as old trophies, rackets, clothing, books and other memorabilia. The Hall of Fame is open to the public and there is no admission charge during the hours of the Belton Museum (Wednesday & Thursday 9:00 to 2:00, Friday 9:00 to 4:00 and Saturday 9:00 to 1:00). Staff is available in the Belton Museum exhibit located on the north end of the depot. The Hall of Fame is operated by the South Carolina Tennis Patrons Foundation.
Several Belton residents are inductees in the Hall of Fame: Janie Haynie Hentz (1984), Jim Russell (1991), E. B. “Fluffy” Rice (1995), Rex Maynard (2001) and Max Grubbs (2008). Russell and Maynard are also inductees in the 9-state Southern Tennis Hall of Fame.
The Belton Tennis Association established the Hall of Fame Classic high school girls tournament in 1987 which is played in honor of the Hall of Fame and continues today.
Palmetto Championships, Presented by Chick-fil-A of Anderson May 24-27, 2019
The Palmetto Championships is one of the largest, most prestigious and longest running tennis tournaments in the country and has been played in Belton since 1957. Each year over 430 of the state’s best junior tennis players compete for a Belton title, an ultimate goal for most South Carolina players. The Palmetto is the state’s junior qualifying tournament. South Carolina players who wish to advance to southern and national championships must play in Belton.
The tournament was played the first weekend in June for many years, but was moved to Memorial Day weekend in 2013 due to school issues. Matches are played over four days on over 50 courts throughout Anderson County. Championships are determined in singles and doubles for both boys and girls in five age divisions (10U, 12U, 14U, 16U and 18U). The dates for the 2019 Palmetto Championship are May 24 thru 27. The tournament headquarters are located at the Belton Tennis Center. Matches are also played at Leda Poore Park and Belton-Honea Path High School. The 10U divisions are played at the Anderson Sports & Entertainment Center, the 12U divisions at Anderson University and Cardinal Racket Club and the 14U divisions at T. L. Hanna High School and Brookstone Meadows. All matches are open to the public at no charge.
The tournament is sanctioned by the United States Tennis Association and hosted by the Belton Tennis Association. Click www.beltontennis.com for additional information on past and current tournaments.