by Bruce Strand, Sports editor
After watching Elk freshman-to-be Tyler Creelman capture the men’s “A” singles title Saturday at the Elk River Open, tournament director Randy Ronning recalled a pledge Creelman made to him in June 2012.
When Creelman attended Elk River’s tennis banquet in seventh grade, the first year he played, he listened with interest as Ronning, the Elk coach, praised senior co-captain Mitchel Brandell’s longtime dedication to tennis.
Since second grade, the coach said, Brandell had been spending virtually every day of the summer at the courts, morning to evening, taking lessons, hitting with anyone he could, living and breathing tennis, under the wing of Ronning who was there as a teaching pro.
Creelman approached Ronning after that banquet and announced: “Coach, I’m going to be your new Mitchel.”
The willowy right-hander followed up on that promise the last two summers, and has gotten his tennis career off to a good start, including playing 3-doubles for the Elks this spring in eighth grade.
At the ERO, Creelman had a bye and three wins, capped by a 10-2 finals victory over Dylan Fyle.
“I’ve played 28 tournament matches this summer,” said Creelman. “This was the highlight.”
That was his summer highlight. His Elk highlight was a crucial 3-doubles win (with Jordan Haack) that clinched a state tourney victory for the Elks. They would lose their next two and finish fourth.
“Tyler has improved a great deal since last year,” said Ronning. “He is a totally different player. Just like Mitchel did, he’s been here at nine in the morning until five, six, seven at night, every day, hitting on the ball machine, hitting with anyone he can, taking lessons every week. He’s played about 30 tournament matches.”
Ronning added that kindred spirits Brandell and Creelman have become good buddies. They played men’s dubs together Sunday, winning one and losing one.