It took the El Paso Socorro Bulldogs tennis team 14 hours on a bumpy ride in a school bus to reach its final destination, the 26th annual Beachcomber Tennis Classic in Galveston.

But head coach Mike Bezemek said it was worth every second of the 1,590-mile round trip. And this was before the tournament even started.

“Some of the kids have never even seen the beach before,” Bezemek said at his team’s hotel, Gaido’s Seaside Inn. “They are on cloud nine.”

Socorro was just one of 38 schools, including El Paso colleague Montwood, that competed in the city of Galveston Parks and Recreation Department tournament, one of two major high school tennis events held in the county last weekend.

The other, of course, was the 32-team sixth annual Kemah Boardwalk High School Invitational, hosted at sites throughout the Bay Area by Clear Creek and Clear Springs.

Like the Beachcomber, the Kemah Boardwalk welcomed schools from all parts of Texas, attracting the Sherman Bearcats to the Beachcomber for the first time, as well.

In fact, Sherman coach Rodney Pilcher said he was going to make “a weekend of it” for his players and families.

The Bearcats, this year’s team champion, did just that, taking in a few of the local restaurants while visiting the various sights like The Strand and the Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier.

Pilcher pointed out that his players and parents were impressed on how friendly and sportsmanlike the other teams and coaches were.

Afterward, Pilcher emailed: “I can’t thank you enough for a great tournament. My kids had a blast with the tournament and Galveston. We will see you next year.”

But tournaments the size of the Beachcomber and Kemah Boardwalk take many a helping hand.

As for the Beachcomber, a special thanks goes out to Jeff Henry and Ron Sutula at Schlitterbahn Waterpark Galveston for allowing to play on the Galveston Racquet Club courts for the last time. It was a sad but proper send-off to a true island tennis icon.

Tennis is supposed to be fun and, without a doubt, this past weekend certainly was for one and all.

What’s All the Racket?

Manuel Moreno Jr. is The Daily News tennis columnist and tournament director of the Beachcomber Tennis Classic. Email him at mmjtenicon@aol.com.

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