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South Carolina tennis club looks to recover from devastating flood

October 7, 2015 06:05 PM

By Jonathon Braden
USTA South Carolina

COLUMBIA, S.C. – Sean Northcott stared at his office earlier this week – the tennis courts at the Murraywood Swim & Racquet Club – and saw uncertainty.

How soon would he be back on the court, making a living and teaching tennis as he’s done for the past 15 years? How quickly could the club remove the few inches of heavy mud covering their eight courts? Could they even remove the mud themselves without damaging the property?

"It’s one of those things, no one knows – we’re all learning," Northcott said.

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Northcott looks at the mud-covered Murraywood courts on October 6, 2015. (USTA SC photo)


The historic rainfall and floods that ravaged parts of the Midlands also devastated this swim and tennis club in northwest Columbia. The club’s eight courts, tennis shed, pool and three other buildings were almost all under water. At the peak of the flooding, only the apex of the club’s bathhouse could be seen from the elevated parking lot.

"People are just heartbroken," said Katherine Keckeisen, whose family has come to Murraywood for 22 years.

Everyone knows it could be worse. No one at Murraywood died or was injured during the flooding. Tennis courts can be resurfaced, buildings can be torn down and erected again.

"We’re lucky," Northcott said.

But a neighborhood hangout still means something to families. Parents watch their children grow up there, dancing on the grass or darting around the tennis court. Moms and dads also form lifelong friendships with other parents there.

Anne Reynolds’ family joined Murraywood when her kids were 5 and 7. Now Holly and Max are 18 and 20, respectively.

"I raised my kids here," said Reynolds, who is a board member at Murraywood and the club’s pool manager, certified pool operator and assistant tennis pro. "I feel like it has a community spirit similar to what churches have."

Keckeisen and her husband, instead of going out for dinner or drinks, will go to Murraywood, where they also join others to watch big sporting events, such as US Open tennis matches.

"This is where we socialize," said Keckeisen. "We all just play tennis and enjoy each other."

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The mud inches deep on a Murraywood tennis court on October 6, 2015. (USTA SC photo)


For Northcott, the club has also been where he earns his living. Northcott, who played college tennis at USC Aiken, teaches tennis year-round to kids and adults. Most weeks, he’s on court for about 35 hours a week, or, as he said, "As much as I can physically stand on court."

High school kids from Lexington, Irmo and Chapin all attend his lessons and clinics. Adults in the area seek his instruction as well.

But during this week of flooding and evacuations, there was a time when, even for Northcott, the damage to Murraywood meant little.  He spent much of Sunday thinking about what would happen next with his job. But on Monday, after he and his wife, who live about half a mile from the Saluda River, were told to prepare to evacuate themselves and their three dogs, Northcott didn’t once think about Murraywood.

"Work was just nothing," he said.

Now the toughest part for him might be waiting.

He and others would like to clear at least two hard courts so he can teach lessons and clinics again. Northcott had hoped to start on that work earlier this week. He swept and crawled around a court to check for new cracks. But after about five hours, he stopped. Only about one half of one court had been cleared.

Eventually, the club would like to get some power-washing help from the Columbia Fire Department.

Until then, Northcott and everyone at Murraywood will be like many people who have been affected by the flood: Wishing their recovery was going faster.

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Murraywood before and during the flooding.


(Click here to view more flooding photos from Murraywood.)

 

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