Ron Cross and Deke Copenhaver are politicians.
But Thursday, the Columbia County Commission chairman and mayor of Augusta won't be lobbing political criticism or volleying public policy.
The pair will serve up a playful war on the tennis court in a Community Spirit Exhibition tennis match to kick off the Columbia County Chamber of Commerce's inaugural Chamber Challenge Tennis Tournament.
"We have got to do some talking about this match," Cross jokingly said at a Monday announcement. "There's quite a bit of an age difference here."
Both men have lots of tennis experience. But Cross, 65, said he hasn't picked up a racket in 10 years, compared to Copenhaver, who played a few times last year.
"I told him I wouldn't practice," Copenhaver said.
The match, which is open to the public, will begin at 6 p.m. Thursday at the Petersburg Racquet Club, 421 The Pass in Martinez.
The leaders of the neighboring counties admitted they are friends off the court.
"We'll be friends on the court, too," Cross said. "... except for about an hour."
Ann Taylor, of Taylor Infiniti and Taylor BMW, will serve as celebrity umpire of the match, said Karen Chrjapin, the chamber's interim director of programs.
"She's going to bring a wonderful dimension to that match," Chrjapin said. "She's going to be lighthearted and make calls that probably nobody has heard of. She's really going to ham it up and she's going to have a good time with it ... a little creative score-keeping there."
The celebrity match kicks off the first of three days of chamber events and tennis.
Thursday's event includes the celebrity match at 6 p.m., free tennis lessons for chamber members and a Tennis After Hours networking event from 5 to 8 p.m. All events are free for chamber members, but nonmembers can attend for a $10 fee.
The tournament was organized to highlight the economic impact of the tennis community and to promote the health benefits of tennis, said Chamber Executive Director Gordon Renshaw. The tournament also showcases the recently renovated Petersburg club and courts.
The tournament is sponsored by MCG Health Associates, One Hour Optical, Comcast, Taylor BMW, Taylor Infiniti and Queensborough National Bank and Trust.
The tournament is open to the public and includes men's, women's, doubles, mixed doubles, open and novice/hacker divisions. It costs $30 to enter a regular division and $15 to enter a second event or the novice/hacker division.
From 8 to 10:30 p.m. Friday, the chamber is holding a Margaritaville Party at the Petersburg pool.
Regular tournament play in all divisions will be Saturday, along with a health fair by MCG Medical Associates.
Monday is the deadline to register for most divisions and Thursday for the novice/hacker division.
For more information or for a registration form, visit the racquet club, the chamber office on Evans-to-Locks Road or www.prctennis.com.
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