By Kevin Wittner, special to USTA.com
SURPRISE, Ariz. – Like all of the USTA League National Championships, this year’s 7.0 and 9.0 Super Senior Championships drew the typically diverse group of players who travel from near and far to compete. Some arrive by air, others by car. The 7.0 USTA Missouri Valley women’s team from Omaha, Neb., showed up with a horse trailer.
One of Missouri Valley’s players, Barbara Butterfield lives in Prescott, Ariz., approximately 100 miles north of this weekend’s tournament. Butterfield, who travels several times a year to Nebraska to visit her sister and compete with her team, invited her teammates to escape Omaha’s rainy, cold weather and spend a few nights at her ranch before the championships.
The visit began inconspicuously enough, as Butterfield picked up her teammates from Sky Harbor Airport in her trusty RV that is used often to make road trips up to Wyoming. The lush transportation included a kitchen, bathroom, table and sofas on board, among other amenities.
Once in Prescott, Missouri Valley’s 11 players stayed three days and two nights on Butterfield’s 40-acre ranch alongside her four horses, nine chickens, two dogs, two cats, two ravens and a one-eyed rescue goat.
Team captain Marty Weiss said, "First of all, Barb’s ranch is large. She has beautiful horses. We had unbelievable sunsets, sunrises, and the weather was perfect. We played tennis. We ate, drank and had a good time. The views are unbelievable. We were even able to go on carriage rides, rode ATV’s; we had lots of fun."
Sometime between enjoying a carriage ride pulled by one of Butterfield’s state champion horses and soaking in the hot tub, the famed RV would not start.
"This lovely man from AAA (auto club) ran his hand across the hood of the car and the car starts," Butterfield recalled. "So we went back to the tennis courts. We came back later, turned the keys. Nothing. It won’t start. Two trucks then came to pick us up, and we left the sorry (RV) behind."
With that, the Missouri Valley team rolled into Surprise on Thursday evening with its players piled in to a pair of pickup trucks with their luggage being hauled behind in Butterfield’s horse trailer that more typically is used to transport her 1200-pound or miniature champion carriage horses to competition.
No one from the team actually had to ride in the horse trailer, although Weiss joked it could be an option if the team does not play well.
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