Championship Honors Legacy of Dr. Cammisa

The upcoming $100,000 NorthBay Healthcare Men's Pro Championship will showcase not only budding young players equipped to join the ranks of tennis' elite, but also the lifetime's work of an admired community physician.

The tournament, set at Solano Community College Oct. 6-14, benefits the Dr. Chris Cammisa Tennis and Education Foundation, an organization that supports the men's and women's teams at SCC and also introduces tennis and a related educational program to underserved youth in Solano County.

NorthBay Healthcare joined as the title sponsor of the tournament in 2017, honoring the legacy of Dr. Cammisa, who served as its chairman in the department of family practice. Dr. Cammisa was also chief medical officer at Partnership Health Plan from 1999 to 2010 before his passing in June 2014.

Dr. Cammisa was a long-time sports advocate in the county as well, volunteering many hours to Vacaville High School, fulfilling its medical needs and also assisting with the tennis program there. The new courts built in 2016 at the Vacaville campus now bear his name.

"He really developed a love of tennis later in life and became very competitive at it," said Meredith Schaff, Dr. Cammisa's daughter. "He has been honored at the high school level and now at the college level, which is very exciting. I think he would be very pleased by that."

Tournament director Phil Cello began the foundation in 2013 under the name Solano Tennis and Education Foundation. The non-profit organization operates on the college campus, providing programs and facilities to further the academic and athletic opportunities for SCC students, along with young athletes throughout the county.

"The 12 courts at Solano College were really under-utilized," Phil said of his desire to begin the foundation. "They were just blowing in the wind. The college didn't have men's or women's tennis and we were able to start a men's program in 2015 and a women's program in 2016."

The foundation also provides low-cost or no-cost training for youth and others, Phil added.

The foundation is hoping in the fall to begin an after-school program with possible transportation to the college for students, as well as an academic mentoring program.

The foundation was renamed in honor of Dr. Cammisa after he passed away in 2014. Phil and Dr. Cammisa had known each other for 35 years. Dr. Cammisa was heavily involved with Rancho Solano Country Club when it began and Phil was the tennis director. He also was a long-time instructor for Dr. Cammisa's daughter, Meredith, who played four years at Vacaville High and also played competitively after graduation.

"I was at his memorial and I noticed all the tennis people there," Phil said. "It seemed the appropriate thing to do."

The foundation began by hosting junior and adult tournaments at the Solano courts. The early revenue from those ventures helped start the college programs. In 2015, the Napa Valley Country Club was dropping its challenger tournament and he was able to move it to Solano County. All revenue now from the tournament supports the foundation.

"There are many well-respected people in the tennis community involved in the foundation and I believe it is in good hands," Meredith said. "The two main pillars of the foundation are to support tennis at Solano Community College and help get kids not normally exposed to tennis involved. The tournament helps make that happen."

Time will tell who the next group of up-and-coming stars might be. But eight of the current top-100 in the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) rankings played in the Fairfield tournament the last two years. A total of 17 former participants were in the Wimbledon draw, highlighted by 2017 NorthBay champion Mackenzie McDonald, who reached the Round of 16.

The Fairfield tournament is the final leg of the men's worldwide ATP Challenger Tour's swing through Northern California. It is one of six tennis tournaments of its kind in the United States and a great opportunity for county residents to watch professional tennis up close.

There will be 32 players in singles and 16 teams in doubles once the draw is set after the opening weekend qualifying tournament. The field of professionals will be finalized in September. There is also a Pro-Am in which local players can team up with professionals in friendly competition against each other.

Tickets for the nine-day tournament go on sale in the fall. All seating is in close proximity to the courts. There are also numerous opportunities to be tournament sponsors, volunteers, and for youth, to be "Ball Kids" during the matches.

For sponsorship opportunities and other information, contact Phil by phone (707) 853-0915 or email Cellotennis@Comcast.net, or assistant tournament director Rafael Rovira by phone (707) 246-0990, or email at Rafael.rovira@Solano.edu.

The tournament website is FairfieldProTennis.com. Tournament news can also be followed at Facebook.com/Chris Cammisa Tennis and Education Foundation.