Originally published in Midweek.com.
July 12, 2006
For partners Mike Bruggemann and Erich Chen, "We didn't click initially" on the tennis court, said Bruggemann, a former Punahou and Santa Clara stand-out.
"Then, all of a sudden, we figured out a way to win. It was a long process."
Bruggemann and Chen are the defending champions in the Kailua Racquet Club's Men's Nights Doubles Tournament, which will run July 23-Aug. 5. Long considered the premier tennis event on the Island, the event can find no bigger fan than Bruggemann, who currently lives in Aina Haina.
"When Erich called me up a few years back to say he was thinking of coming to Hawaii for a visit and to play in the tournament, I told him it would be the best tournament he would ever play in unless he went pro," he said."You get the best players the Island has to offer and a lot of others who come from the Mainland.
"Growing up here, I thought it was pretty much the main attraction in tennis," added Bruggemann, who is a sales representative for Eastern Tools. "As a kid, I looked up to the guys who played in it.
"It's a dream come true (for me), as far as tennis goes."
The men will be making their fifth appearance in the tournament. They were eliminated in the quarter-finals in 2001 and 2002 before breaking through to win the event in 2003. In 2004, they were seeded No.1, but were defeated (6-3, 7-6, 6-2) by the tandem of Bradley Lum-Tucker and Ikaika Jobe. They rebounded last August to outlast a pair of former Santa Clara teammates, Taylor Bedilion and Chris Lam 7-5, 6-2 last year.
Although teammates at Santa Clara, they had not been doubles partners until they played together in the 2001 Men's Nights Doubles Tournament.
"We are very different," Bruggemann laughed. "Being from Hawaii, I'm a little more laid back. He's from the Mainland (San Jose, Calif.), so he's a little more intense. He's into computers and I am not. They say that opposites attract."
Despite differences in personality, communication on the court is often non-verbal between the two, according to Bruggemann. "We don't have to say too much. Even though we weren't always partners, we still played together at Santa Clara."
These days, Bruggemann is less active on the tennis court, he admits, and he begins preparing for the Nights Doubles Tournament two months before the event. He now plays four times a week.
"It's not like riding a bike," he laughed. "If I don't play for awhile, I get sore."
Pairings for the Night Doubles Tournament, which is in its 36th year of existence, will be announced at a later date. Admission is free to the public.
This year a spectator's Gold Pass will be offered, allowing non-members to participate in the tournament's clinic in addition to receiving six free dinners, and preferred parking and seating.
Gold Passes cost $720 for four, $380 for two, or $200 for a single. For more information on sponsorships, call 263-4444.
For more information on the tournament, call 754-6349.