Clinton native takes over as pro at VCC|[5/23/05]

Published 12:00 am Monday, May 23, 2005

When selling homes didn’t work out for Eric Thomas, he decided to return to his and fell back into an old career.

The 42-year-old Clinton native, who spent more than a decade teaching tennis in Texas, has been hired as the new pro at Vicksburg Country Club.

Tennis lags in popularity behind football and baseball among Warren County’s athletes, but Thomas believes there’s enough people and time to change that.

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“I like to start from the bottom and build a program,” Thomas said. “I think Vicksburg is big enough to where we could have a good, solid tennis program in this town.”

Thomas knows the area well. He grew up in Clinton, played tennis for Clinton High and Mississippi College, and still has family in Clinton.

After graduating from Mississippi College, he got a tennis teaching degree from Tyler (Texas) Junior College. He eventually landed a job at Stonebriar Country Club – one of the country’s best tennis facilities – in Plano, Texas, in 1988.

He stayed at Stonebriar for 10 years before pursuing a career in real estate. He grew disenchanted with that field, however, and decided to return to his tennis roots.

“Once I left Stonebriar, I tried some different things. I tried some real estate investments, and just wanted to get back to tennis,” Thomas said. “I started looking at some opportunities outside of Texas, and there were some opportunities here in Mississippi.”

That opportunity arrived when VCC was looking for a new pro. Thomas sees potential in Vicksburg, and wants to take on the challenge.

“It’s smaller (than Stonebriar), but when I got to Plano we had to start from the ground up also, and that’s what we did,” Thomas said. “That’s what we have to do here.”

The first step is getting Warren County’s youth interested in the sport. To that end, Thomas said VCC is offering several camps and classes this summer. Most of the tennis programs are designed simply to get people to try the game.

“If we can get kids to come out and try tennis, hopefully they’ll see how fun it is,” Thomas said.

He added that getting people out this summer would be a big factor in his program’s success, but that he didn’t mind competing with other sports for business.

“This summer is going to be a big factor in what we do. It’s up to me and whoever is out here with me, to keep it going,” Thomas said. “In anything you do, you’ve got to compete. We have to compete with soccer, baseball, football and other things.”