Photo by Theo Tate
Lewis and Clark Community College athletics director Doug Stotler presents a vase to Nancy Simpson in honor of the passing of her late mother-in-law Antigone “Andy” Simpson after the singles championship match of the LCCC Men’s Pro Tennis Classic on Sunday at the Andy Simpson Tennis Complex.
In May 1998, the tennis facility at Lewis and Clark Community College got a new name.
It was called the Andy Simpson Tennis Complex, named after a woman who played a huge part in Greater Alton’s tennis community.
Two months later, the facility had its inaugural Lewis and Clark Men’s Pro Tennis Classic, which attracted high-quality tennis players from around the world. The Godfrey event had nearly 130 participants.
Simpson teamed up with her daughter-in-law, Nancy Simpson, to run the tournament.
“My mother-in-law, Andy, and I ran the tournament from a wooden gazebo,” Nancy said. “We checked the players in, we found housing for them and we even wrote their checks when they won their matches. We have come a long way, but we had so much fun doing it 19 years ago.”
On Sunday, the life of Andy Simpson was remembered in a special ceremony before the singles championship match between Tennys Sandgren of Gallatin, Tenn., and Facundo Mena of Argentina at court No. 2. Simpson passed away on June 26, which was the last day of this year’s Bud Simpson Open, a tournament named for her husband, who died in 1982.
“Andy was a genuine, kind-hearted person who treated everyone with the utmost respect,” Nancy said. “Her warmth has spread well beyond anything that she could have imagined. She always had a kind word to say. For our family, she has been a source of all good things, happiness, understanding, listening and sincere interest without judgment. She carried a sense of humor that we all loved. She spread these qualities throughout the community.”
Before the match, Simpson got to flip a coin that had a picture of her mother-in-law to determine who served first in the title match. After the match, she received a gift from LCCC athletics director Doug Stotler — a vase bearing the inscription “Remembering Antigone ‘Andy’ Simpson, The Matriarch of Riverbend Tennis.”
“This was just a wonderful event,” Simpson said. “Andy Simpson would have loved it. She has been here for 17 of the 19 years we had the tournament and it was my honor to be able to represent her and being able to do the coin toss with her picture on the coin. It was a very special day for me.”
Simpson also said she was excited to see the singles championship match. Sandgren defeated Mena 6-0, 6-4 to win his second LCCC Men’s Pro Tennis Classic title.
“It was a good final,” Simpson said. “I’m glad that the second set came through like it did. It was a great tournament. It was really special.”
Americans Nathan Ponwith and Emil Reinberg won the doubles championship after beating Mena and Jesus Bandres of Venezuela on July 22.
The LCCC Men’s Pro Tennis Classic began July 16 with a qualifying round of 64 players. The main 32-player main draw began July 19.
Stotler said this year’s tournament was dedicated to Andy Simpson.
“This one was really special because of Andy’s passing,” the LCCC athletics director said. “When we run this tournament, Andy was so involved and just knowing that she’s no longer with us made it special.”
Stotler said USTA trainer Adam Tyson was a big help during the tournament. Sandgren suffered a blister on his right hand during the first set of Sunday’s championship match, so he called a medical timeout to get Tyson to treat it.
“With the oppressive heat, he was working harder or as hard as all of the players,” Stotler said. “He had 64 in the qualifying round and another 32 in the main draw to attend to and make sure no one would succumb to heat exhaustion. He was absolutely proactive and preventive. We had just one kid with an incident. A lot of guys needed his attention.”
The LCCC Men’s Pro Tennis Classic is a United States Tennis Association Men’s Futures Pro Circuit event and draws players from countries as far away as Australia, India, China and Brazil. The event offered a total purse of $25,000.
In the first year of the Godfrey event, the total purse was $12,500. Wynn Criswell was the first tournament champion, beating Australia’s Luke O’Donnell in two sets in the battle of unseeded players in the title match.
Simpson said she enjoys watching the Men’s Pro Tennis Classic every year.
“It’s been part of our lives forever because my husband and my kids played tennis and to see world-class tennis coming to Godfrey, Illinois, is amazing,” she said.
Simpson’s husband, Robert, who passed away in 2004, was on the board of the St. Louis District Tennis Association and was instrumental in bringing the USTA Futures Tournament to LCCC.
“He convinced the USTA to move the Futures Tournament to our campus,” Simpson said. “It’s probably over $200,000 of estimated revenue that comes through this tournament.”
Simpson said her mother-in-law always looked forward to attending the Godfrey event.
“For 17 years, Andy Simpson was always here,” she said. “She would drive up in her little white station wagon wearing a sweater, no matter what the temperature is, carrying bananas, baklava and Pay Day candy bars. She thought the players needed the potassium with the bananas and wanted to treat everyone with the baklava and Pay Days.”
On Sunday, there was a table full of bananas and Pay Day candy bars available for the spectators. There was also a picture of Andy with her husband, Bud, from 1941, on the table.
Simpson said LCCC did an outstanding job of running the Futures tournament despite the heat and humidity.
“We have volunteer drivers for the players and we thank them, the ball kids and the people in the community who generously opened their homes to the players,” she said. “We couldn’t have done it without them. We have a great relationship with the USTA and the officials who have worked so hard in this heat to keep the tournament running smoothly.”
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