The 34th annual Pine Tree Apple Tennis Championships were held last weekend, featuring the usual strong field of mixed doubles teams, at Lifetime Fitness in White Bear Lake.
“Great tennis, food, merchandise and fellowship were enjoyed by all with a common goal to fight for cure,” said Kevin Werwie, the event president who was also Masters champion with Meghan Kimber. “While still totaling up donations from the event, an incredible $300,000 is estimated to be raised this year for the cause.”
This four-day event with Open, Masters and Grand Masters divisions raises money for Children’s Minnesota. Over $5.5 million has been generated so far toward cancer research and oncology programs.
“As a former oncology nurse, I have seen what patients and their families endure,” said Kathy Bjornson, who won Grand Masters with Bob Marolt. “Pine Tree has contributed to some amazing research breakthroughs. Who wouldn't want to be part of that?”
Many former Gopher players and other ex-college standouts play in the PTCAT.
Emerging as champions among 32 teams in the Open competition were former Gopher players Julien Dehn and Tooli Wilkins, who were runners-up last year. Dehn, a native of Germany, won over 100 matches for the “U” in 2008-12.
“It is an inspiring event with great people and a fun atmosphere,” Dehn said, “and it's wonderful to be able to give back to the community through a sport I love.”
The top-seeded team, they edged No. 2 seed Tobias Wernet and Imke Reimers in the finals. Each won four matches to reach the finals. Wernet and Reimers are natives of Germany who played for the Gophers and Nebraska, respectively.
Also reaching the semifinals were Brad Anderson (Edina, Boston College) and Haley Haakenstad (current Nebraska player, Chanhassen), along with Chris Kuna (Edina, Wisconsin-Eau Claire) and Paula Rincon Otero (former Gopher from Spain).
In the Masters division, Werwie and Kimber repeated as champions. Werwie, former Gopher No. 1, has seven Pine Tree titles in 26 years as an entrant. Kimber played for Duluth East and Gustavus Adolphus. They won their finals match 6-3, 7-5 over the runners-up among 14 teams, Justin Siem (Stillwater, UM-Duluth) and Ali King (Wayzata, Penn State). It was Siem’s 19th Pine Tree.
Marolt (Ely, St. John’s) and Bjornson (Chanhassen, Gophers) were Grand Masters champions among eight teams. In the finals, they won 4-6, 6-3, 10-4 ver Chris Combs (White Bear Lake) and Katie Resch (St. Paul).