With the highest United States Tennis Association (USTA) membership of any city across North Carolina, Wilmington continues to produce solid individual players thanks to the many coaches and instructors who spend countless hours helping young athletes achieve their goals.
Former Laney High School Tennis Coach and Physical Education teacher Beau Summersill has had a passion since hanging up his racket to guide the development of youth players on the court. During that time, two area standouts have risen to the top of the rankings thanks to a ton of hard work and effort.
“I have always had a passion to help others become better, whether it’s in the classroom or on the court,” Summersill said. “Over the last few years I’ve been able to watch my players develop at such a rapid pace, which has given me insight into other avenues of teaching. It’s the reason why I left teaching, with the hope of continuing to help young players improve.”
Since 2014, Port City Daily has been following the progress of Wilmington natives Augie Ballantine and Peyton Philemon as they make names for themselves around the regional circuit.
Ballantine, a fourth grader at St. Mark’s Catholic School, is the undisputed No. 1 tennis player in the southern United States for his age, according to the USTA latest rankings of the boys 10 and under age division.
He is the top-ranked player in North Carolina and also listed at No. 1 in the nine-state Southern Region, which includes North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, Tennessee and Kentucky. Last weekend at the Tournament of Champions in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Ballantine ousted three of the top five players in the south. He has won 27 Tennis Championship Titles in singles and soubles and has won 44 of his last 46 10U singles matches over the last year.
Ballantine also recently won the North Carolina Tar Heel Qualifier, and HondaJet North Carolina Junior Closed Championship.
“I have been so fortunate to be Augie and Peyton’s coach for over three years now and have been so privileged to see them grow on and off the court,” Summersill added. “I remember when we first started working together back when you have to change grips and just teach the basics and now to see their growth and accomplishments it’s truly remarkable.”
Philemon has equaled Ballantine’s success, even competing and winning against individuals two, three and sometimes four years older than she.
She was one of four players invited from the USTA Southern Section to attend the USTA Team USA Camp at Lifetime Athletics in Georgia this past year. In 2015, Philemon was ranked No. 1 in the southern section and North Carolina for 10-year-olds.
As a 10U competitor, Philemon collected a 76-19 overall record. She was the North Carolina Junior Summer State Closed 10’s Singles and Doubles Champion in 2015, with wins at events in Lake Norman, South Carolina and Alabama.
While she’s still age eligible for the division, Philemon tackled the challenge of going to full-court competition using a standard yellow tennis ball last year. As a way to get more of today’s youth involved in the game of tennis, the USTA regulates play by using lighter green or orange balls at the younger level so individuals can work on their skillset to gain greater control and technique.
Philemon started playing 12-year-old yellow ball solely in August 2015. At that time, her Southern 12’s ranking was 389. Today, her current Southern 12’s ranking is 71 and her North Carolina 12’s ranking is 20. This is all while competing in the 12-year-old division at the age of 10.
“As a coach the most rewarding thing is to see your players reach a level of success that sets them apart from their peers,” Summersill said. “It truly is a team effort to get players to this level in development and it all starts with tremendous support from their parents, Nick and Elisabeth Philemon and Patrick and Lisa Ballantine. It’s not easy training week in and week out, but they are focused and committed and it is truly a gift to be a part of their growth and development.”
Summersill decided after the school year ended to leave the teaching profession and focus solely on private instruction.