A prize of $1,500 is suddenly up for grabs at the upcoming Lithia Toyota Open Championships.
The singles champions of the last two seasons did not return, including 2013 winner Kyle McMorrow. He was expected to be the top seed but withdrew on Tuesday, forcing Open officials to re-seed the bracket.
WHAT: Men's open tennis tournament in its 18th year. Formerly known as the Rogue Valley Open Championships.
"It opens it up," Rogue Valley Swim and Tennis Club director Frank Inn said. "I can't even predict (who may win it) now. It could be anybody."
The 18th edition of the tournament begins Friday and wraps up Sunday with singles and doubles finals at the Rogue Valley Swim and Tennis Club.
Admission is free, with matches beginning at noon Friday and continuing on through the evening. Saturday's first match begins at 10:30 a.m., and Sunday's championship finals are slated to begin with singles at 11:30 a.m. The doubles final will follow.
Overall, the purse for this year's tournament is $5,000 with $1,500 going to the singles champion and $400 apiece for the doubles champions. All proceeds generated by tournament sponsorships this year will go to the Medford Parks and Recreation Foundation to help fund its summer programs and scholarships.
Andy Gerst is the top seed in a draw of 32 players. He played two years at Washington before finishing his career at Cal Poly. Gerst spent two seasons playing on the ATP Tour and has coached at Cal Poly and Florida State.
"Andy definitely has some credentials," Inn said.
Mathew Berry of northern California is seeded second and former Cal Poly player Brett Van Linge third.
Charlie Cutler, seeded fourth, played at Washington University in St. Louis, and is now a volunteer assistant coach at the University of San Francisco. Joël Kusnierz, who competed at Saint Mary's of California, is fifth and Jon Endrikat, an ex-North Medford High and UC Irvine standout, is sixth.
Only Gerst, Cutler and Endrikat have previously played in the Open among the top six.
Others to watch include former South Medford standout Matt Pronesti, who now plays at Merrimack College in North Andover, Mass., and Wil Cochrane, an ex-Phoenix star who plays at Portland State.
"They have matured a lot since playing college ball and being involved in strong competition," Inn said of Pronesti and Cochrane.
Another local — former Cascade Christian basketball and tennis standout Scott Morse — is also among the field.
In doubles, Gerst and Endrikat form the top-seeded doubles squad and Cutler and Berry are seeded second.
Endrikat and Curt Wheeler of Salem paired to win the doubles crown last year.
The tournament is without McMorrow, the former All-American at Washington who cruised through the competition last year. He advanced through the 24-player bracket without giving up a set in four matches and beat defending champion George Jecminek of Canada, 7-5, 6-1, in the final.
Jecminek also did not return.
Reach reporter Dan Jones at 541-776-4499, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Find him online at twitter.com/danjonesmt