Malcolm Graham is a longtime tennis player. He's turned his love for the sport into the Charlotte Amateur Tennis Championship, happening Aug. 16-18. Photo: Qcitymetro

Malcolm Graham is an avid tennis player. It’s what brought him to Johnson C. Smith University in 1981 on a tennis scholarship. Now, he’s leading the foundation that is hosting the first Charlotte Amateur Tennis Championship.

The tournament, sanctioned by the United States Tennis Association (USTA), will take place Aug. 16-18 at the Queens University Tennis Complex at Marion Diehl Recreation Center and the Jeff Adams Tennis Center at Renaissance Park.

The three-day event benefits the Cynthia Graham Hurd Foundation for Literacy and Civic Engagement, named in honor of Graham’s sister who was one of nine people killed in the 2015 shooting at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C. Graham serves as the foundation’s president and tournament director for the event.

Malcolm Graham attended Johnson C. Smith University on a tennis scholarship. Photo courtesy of Malcolm Graham

He credits his sister for motivating him to get better at the sport.

“When I was growing up, my sister encouraged me to play. It wasn’t really popular back in the early ‘80s for an African American to be playing tennis in Charleston,” Graham said. “She saw that I had some talent and encouraged me to play the game and went to tournaments with me. This is a way to honor her memory and do something fun along the way.”

Cynthia Graham Hurd was a 31-year veteran of Charleston County Public Library. Photo courtesy of Malcolm Graham

Along with crowning the city’s best amateur tennis players — each splitting a $2,500 cash prize — Graham says it’s also an opportunity to highlight the use of public tennis courts.

“In Charlotte, a lot of the tennis players play at private clubs. This tournament is a way to showcase the public facilities and encourage people to play on public courts,” he said.

Lance King and Alexis Robinson are two players participating in the Charlotte Amateur Tennis Championship. They spent the morning practicing on the courts at the Marion Diehl Recreation Center at Queens University Sports Complex. Photo: Qcitymetro

Mecklenburg County Parks and Recreation lists several public courts available for tennis lessons, leagues and tournaments. Trenton Huntley plays with a meetup group at Hornet’s Nest Park and takes lessons with Charlotte City Tennis at Freedom Park.

“I think it will be an excellent opportunity to put Charlotte on the map in a different way if it grows and becomes something significant on the USTA circuit,” he said.

Hornet’s Nest Park is home to one of Mecklenburg County’s public tennis courts. Photo: Qcitymetro

Tournament registration is open at using tournament ID number 700125019.

Other events

On Aug. 15, “A Community Conversation with Shannon Watts” will be held at Johnson C. Smith University’s Biddle Hall from 7-9 p.m. Watts, a mother of five, is the founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.

The conversation will discuss gun violence as a public health crisis with panelists including Graham, Mayor Vi Lyles, Congresswoman Alma Adams, Mecklenburg County Sheriff Garry McFadden, County Commissioner Mark Jerrell and an Atrium Health representative. Register here for the free event.

Kids and adults who enjoy tennis “just for the fun of it” can participate in Food Lion Rock & Rally Kids Day and Adult Social Play. It takes place Aug. 17, from 9:30 – 11 a.m. at the Jeff Adams Tennis Center at Renaissance Park. Kids Day is limited to 100 kids. Register here for both events.

Katrina Louis is managing editor of who can always find something to do in Charlotte. She’s an offline hustler (and has the shirt to prove it) but when online, find her on Instagram and Twitter.

Katrina covers Charlotte's Black business scene for QCity Metro. She's a Miami transplant, pescatarian and lover of the arts. She earned a public relations degree from the University of Florida. Got a...