David Dealaman remembers the pre-Blakeman Blakeman, back when it was simply the Clam Festival tennis tournament.
A 1978 graduate of Yarmouth High who played on a state championship team that spring, Dealaman has played mixed doubles with the event’s namesake, Betty Blakeman, and he can’t remember missing a single year.
“Obviously, it’s the largest tournament in the state,” said Dealaman, who now lives in Freeport, “and you see a lot of guys that you only see once a year.”
This weekend marks the 25th edition of the Betty Blakeman Memorial Tournament. Dealaman plans to take part once more, along with more than two hundred other tennis enthusiasts.
The tournament is held in conjunction with the Yarmouth Clam Festival and benefits the Cancer Community Center in South Portland. Players and sponsors raised more than $15,000 last year for the nonprofit agency, which provides free programs for adults living with cancer, their families and friends.
Betty Blakeman died of breast cancer in 1989. Her children, Eric Blakeman and Carrie Davenport, help organize the annual three-day tournament, which includes a Saturday night barbecue alongside the courts at Yarmouth High. Matches are played at the high school and several satellite courts.
“It’s just a fun tournament,” Dealaman said. “It brings everybody out.”
More than $60,000 has been donated to the Cancer Community Center, now entering its sixth year as the designated beneficiary, and more than $125,000 to cancer-related organizations based in Maine.
There are actually seven different tournaments under the Blakeman umbrella. Last year’s field for men’s open doubles sported 54 teams. Competition will also be held in men’s and women’s open singles, women’s doubles, mixed doubles and men’s 55-and-over singles and doubles.
Entries close Wednesday night at 7, according to tournament director Don Atkinson, who encourages those interested in playing to contact him by email (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Dealaman said he can’t remember the furthest he ever advanced in the singles bracket. Usually it was not more than a round or two before he met a seeded player.
He has lost twice each to Brian Powell of Kennebunkport and Brian Mavor of Yarmouth, each a seven-time singles Blakeman champion. Dealaman also lost to 2009 winner Mike Hill of Topsham.
“That was a good experience,” said Dealaman, who remembers being up 40-love on serve against Powell one year. “My goal was to get one game against him. I ended up losing 0 and 0.”
Dealaman, 54, also remembers beating a young Paul Gastonguay, who went on to become Ivan Lendl’s hitting partner and – his current position – Bates College tennis coach.
“He’s one of those guys who became very good,” Dealaman said.
Donna Dwyer of South Portland, who teamed with Hallsey Leighton of Falmouth to win the Maine Tennis Association’s women’s doubles championship last weekend at Waynflete’s Fore River courts in Portland, said this will be her sixth consecutive Blakeman.
“I’m a stage 4 cancer survivor, so this is very important to me,” Dwyer said. “It’s the best weekend of the whole year. I make an effort to do it no matter what.”
Neither MTA women’s champion Stephanie Doane nor MTA top seed Patrick Ordway, a Bates sophomore and former high school singles state champion, plan to enter the singles tournaments. But Ordway, who withdrew from the MTA final against former Waynflete teammate Devin Van Dyke because of shoulder problems, does plan to play doubles and mixed doubles with fellow Bobcats Brent Feldman and Libby Voccola, a former Falmouth High standout.
Noah Bragg, who will be a senior this fall at Bowdoin, won the men’s title last year but will not defend this title. Cornelia Deeg, who plays out of the Boston area, will defend her women’s title.