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Sunday, October 17, 2010

Players gearing up for West Michigan Open Pro Am Racquetball Championships

Brandon Cortese has strung together an impressive list of accomplishments during his racquetball career.

Cortese, 28, of Grand Rapids, is a two-time Michigan Male Player of the Year and twice has won Michigan State Singles Open and Michigan State Doubles Open championships.

We asked him to discuss his most memorable moment, though, and one might be surprised by what he has to say.

He puts a loss at the top of his list.

"I had an opportunity to play Cliff Swain in the West Michigan Open two years ago, and that was a dream of mine because he is the greatest of all time," Cortese said. "It was a racquetball dream of mine to be on the same court with him. It was the happiest I've ever been to lose a match."

The West Michigan Open Pro Am Racquetball Championships returns to Michigan Athletic Club this weekend. Swain, a member of the USA Racquetball Hall of Fame who has finished the year ranked No. 1 a record six times, is scheduled to compete.

Cortese said it would be great to square off against Swain again.

Cortese, a Michigan State graduate, serves as the club professional at the MAC, East Hills and Orchard Hills athletic clubs.

What: West Michigan Open Pro Am Racquetball Championships

Where: Michigan Athletic Club, 2500 Burton SE, Grand Rapids

When: Quarterfinals begin noon Saturday, followed by semifinals at 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. Finals are noon Sunday.

Admission: Free; donations may be made to Helen DeVos Children's Hospital.
He participates in a number of national events each year but said this weekend's tournament is among his favorites.

"For me, I just always have enjoyed the sport and I love when the people come out and cheer and have a good time," Cortese said. "When you hear the people outside clapping, that is one of the best feelings. The fan involvement is one of the top things for me."

Players will compete for a share of a $3,000 purse. Proceeds will benefit Helen DeVos Children's Hospital.

Cortese said a talented field also makes it special. He pointed to Shane Vanderson of Tampa, Fla., as a player to watch.

Vanderson, who is ranked No. 7 on the International Racquetball Tour, said the tournament will serve as an ideal tune-up for the Oct. 20-24 U.S. Open Racquetball Championships in Minneapolis.

"I haven't been happy with my results so far this year, so I will be looking to turn things around," said Vanderson, 29, a seven-year professional. "I have to work on my forehand. That is the key, along with being nice and consistent."

Andrew Price of Saginaw also is looking forward to returning to the MAC. He turned pro a year ago.

"The first tournament I ever played at was at the MAC," Price said. "I was 11 years old, and I turned pro last year in Grand Rapids."

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