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Ozark Table Tennis Club

By Bill Lewis | Feb. 01, 2015, 12 a.m. (ET)

History of Ozarks Table Tennis Club: Springfield, MO.   

Salutations and greetings from Springfield, Missouri.  My name is Bill Lewis and I’m President of Ozarks Table Tennis Club.  

Our club was initially started by Dave Zapatka back in the late 70’s.  The club did not attain USATT accreditation but for a time sustained good regional growth. Zapatka subsequently moved to a large southwest metro area sometime in the early 2000’s.  Circa 1993 Hugh Mason took control of the club and used his demonstrative skills to teach young players how to play. Under Mason’s tutelage the club became USATT chartered and an established Thursday evening day of play became the norm. 

In 2001 I became the president of the Ozarks Table Tennis Club.  The first thing I wanted to accomplish was to run some kind of sanctioned tournament since no club tourneys had been held since 1997.  We eventually decided to stage the least pressured tournament, a Zero Star, secondarily because of low payouts but primarily because I didn’t know what I was doing.  The club only played on and owned five tables: two Stiga Experts, one Stiga Elite and two Stiga Privat’s. These tables had been donated by two long-time members of the club, Hugh Mason and Joe Fong.   

Our first tournament in quite some time managed to garner 28 players but only one player was rated over 2000: Rick Seiler hailing from St. Louis decided to venture into our small church gymnasium.  True to his rating Rick would eventually funnel his way to the championship match in Open Singles against Springfield’s then top rated player, Dale Boswell.  (Dale lost in anti-climactic fashion, but, he showed grit and steely determination.)  So, my wife and I found our feet collectively wet running our first heralded tournament and truthfully for a few tournaments afterwards we were still working out the kinks and getting our bearings straight.  We were brand new to the forms, to the lingo and to the follow-up reporting which needed accomplished.  Basically my wife and I brought new meaning to the term ‘learning curve’ as tournaments were perplexing. Thankfully we had some patient players and a generous and informative south central regional coordinator in Robert Mayer who hailed from Texas to help guide us.  Fast forward a couple of years and we then had another helpful south central regional director in control named Eugene Atha from Little Rock, Arkansas.  We also secured a new location for playing by partnering with the Springfield Parks & Recreations Board. 

In 2005 we embarked on running our 10th  tournament, the 2005 “Star of India” Open.  This tournament proved to be a water-shed event.  Though the gym we used was slightly larger than most we had growing pains. With a total of 74 players in attendance we accommodated them by using 14 tables.  The Open finals came down to Ludovic Gombos, originally from France, against Choor Sime Oh, originally from Malaysia.  Gombos got a nice victory against the lefty in Oh and it was Oh’s first match loss here at Springfield in three tournaments.  Gombos proved to be a worthy chopper but also a strong forehand hitter against the very nimble and exacting hitter in Choor Oh.  In 2006 our club staged the inaugural Missouri Winter Games Open which had $5500 in payouts.  This was a 3-Star tourney and we somehow managed 122 players with Eric Owens leading the charge.  Players from eight states arrived and I think a majority of the premier players from Texas Wesleyan University penned their names as signees. So, the decision to utilize Springfield’s largest high school venue, the triple-gym-sized Parkview High School “Vikings Gymnasium” with 27 tables was used. This afforded plenty of room and spectacular matches.  For the Open Singles event I tried my first ever reverse order SE/RR format containing 16 players before being whittled down to four.  The elite four then dueled in a four man round robin. At the end of the day it was Eric Owens who would have the best round robin record and he took home one thousand dollars for this single event.  Other featured players in attendance that day: Carlos Chiu, Joey Cochran, Samson Dubina, Dinko Kranjac, Courtney Roberts, Mitch Seidenfeld and Tim Yardy. 

Since 2006 Ozarks Table Tennis Club has sprinkled in 24 sanctioned tournaments, five mini-tournaments and one non-sanctioned event.  In all and to date OTTC has held 42 tournaments with two more scheduled for 2015, one in March and one in June.  2015 will be the 5th year in a row Springfield, MO and Ozarks Table Tennis Club has staged the Missouri Show-Me State Games Open in Springfield.  Over the years we’ve paid out more than $40,000 in prize money and $3000 in door prizes, medals and trophies. The highest ITTF rated player to ever grace Springfield was Mark Hazinski who was brought here by the ever-friendly Mark Nordby.  Other fine players have been Alfred Najem from Lebanon, Fernando Yamazato, Karin Fukushima and Paulo Rocha from Brazil and Venkat Ramesh from India.  The player with the greatest number of match wins in Springfield history is Parviz Mojaverian who motors in from nearby Kansas City.  Out of the tournaments Mojaverian has played in, he has four 1st place finishes, five 2nd place finishes and three, 3rd place finishes.  The Over 40 USA National Hardbat champion Jeff Johnston from Smithville, MO has won all but one of our Hardbat Open’s however, he also possesses one 1st place win, three 2nd place finishes and two 3rd place finishes in Open Singles. That traveling troubadour of table tennis lore, the one and only Will Shortz from New York City also visited our club.  Will has some unique serves which are difficult to replicate though my son Ben managed to eke out a quality match win against him during his visit here with Robert Roberts, who is from the Caribbean country of Barbados. 

Ozarks Table Tennis Club enjoys a friendly relationship with Missouri’s Show-Me State Games commission and with Springfield Parks & Recreation.  Our club seeks to promote and expand participation for players young and old, for para’s and for low, medium and high rated players. We do this by running and staging sanctioned tournaments, mini-tournaments, occasional Sunday round robin tournaments and by giving instruction to those who request it.  Ozarks Table Tennis Club is proud to utilize 12 Cornilleau Competition 740 tables.  Made in France these tables have the endorsement of Jean-Philippe Gatien, their most well-known supporter.  Our club encourages all players to obtain their USATT Club Umpire certificate as well as get any advanced credentials they might wish to attain.    

Thanks so much for reading.   Now, get out there and get some table tennis exercise.