Former Medford standout Nate Schnugg will be a featured player this weekend in the UBS Financial Open and Senior Clay Championships at Rogue Valley Swim and Tennis Club.

Homeward Bound

You can excuse Nate Schnugg if he takes a couple days to get his land legs back.

The Medford resident and blossoming tennis star has racked up more air travel recently than a flock of birds migrating south each fall.

This past week had Schnugg traveling from Georgia to California and then immediately back to the East Coast where he met, of all people, the president.

"It's been pretty busy, but fun, too" said Schnugg from an airport in Atlanta.

Schnugg's latest stop is back in Medford, where he'll play in the 12th annual $17,500 UBS Financial Open and Senior Clay Championships at Rogue Valley Swim and Tennis Club.

The tournament begins Friday at noon and concludes Sunday, with championship matches starting at 11:30 a.m. Play begins Saturday around 9 a.m., with the women's open singles championship to be held that evening.

The payout of $3,000 to the men's open singles winner is the richest payout for the second straight year on the six-stop Pacific Northwest circuit.

Schnugg, 18, is the No. 3 seed amongst a highly competitive field.

Among the list of open singles competitors is defending champion and top-seed Roman Borvanov and former winner Michael Calkins.

Also highlighting the 32-man field is second-seeded Amir Hadad of Budapest, RVSTC teaching pro Jonathan Endrikat (No. 6 seed) and three-time champion Brian Joelson.

Hadad, a native of Israel, has been ranked as high as 180th in the world and owns a victory over former tennis standout Mark Philippoussis.

Schnugg's Georgia teammate, Christian Vitulli, is the tournament's No. 4 seed. Vitulli, who was born in Mombasa, Kenya, was the '06 Kenya Tennis Player of the Year.

"It's going to be an extremely difficult draw this year," said RVSTC general manager Brian Morse. "We're really excited about having Nate come back. He's going to be a good one in the future as a pro player."

The women's division will be back after a one-year hiatus.

Recent North Bend graduate Kelcy McKenna, a four-time state champion and soon-to-be freshman at Arizona State, is the top seed of the seven-person field.

Schnugg has missed the last two tournaments, then known as the Morgan Stanley Open, because of conflicts with other events. In his last appearance in 2004, Schnugg was eliminated in the quarterfinals.

"I know this tournament constantly gets the best players," said Schnugg. "It has great prize money and it's well-run. I'll just have to play my best and see what happens."

Schnugg's "best" helped the University of Georgia achieve greatness this season.

As a freshman, Schnugg led the Athens, Ga., school to a 32-0 record and an NCAA national championship — the school's fifth.

Schnugg finished the year ranked 95th in the nation after posting a 26-1 record as the team's No. 5 singles player. He also teamed with fellow freshman Jamie Hunt, Schnugg's partner in winning the U.S. Open junior doubles crown in September, to record a 24-4 mark as Georgia's No. 3 doubles squad.

The individual accomplishments weren't the highlight of Schnugg's first year, however.

"It was more about the relationships we had with the coaches and players," said Schnugg. "I'm so close with everyone on the team — they're the only guys I hang out with. You only want to win for the other guys. So when we won, we did it for each other."

The season ended in May 23, but Schnugg's summer schedule is just picking up.

He flew to California to play in a Future's Tournament, then was whisked back Monday to Washington D.C., to be honored for winning the national title by President Bush at the White House.

"It was pretty amazing," Schnugg said. "I feel so fortunate to meet people like him and go on trips like this.

"It's been a fun month and year for me."

Schnugg made an unofficial visit to Georgia last May when the Bulldogs were in the midst of the NCAA Championships.

It was there he made a commitment to Georgia.

"I believe he committed to us on the spot," said Bulldogs' coach and national coach of the year Manuel Diaz. "He was a big reason why (the Web site) picked us as having the No. 1 recruiting class in the country."

Inserting Schnugg, who was fresh off winning Wimbledon and U.S. Open junior doubles titles the year before, into the lineup was an easy decision.

And the momentum from those Grand Slam victories carried over to his initial collegiate season.

"He was most impressive," said Diaz. "Really, Nate played a very pivotal role for us, and certainly by the end of the year, was far and away the most dominant No. 5 man in the country."

Schnugg figures to move up in the lineup next season with the graduation of two key seniors.

"I've gotta say," Diaz said, "Nate impressed us as a player that can move to the top of the lineup and be an impact player next year. No doubt about that."

Although Schnugg may have been higher on another lineup of another team, he wouldn't trade in his experience so far with Georgia.

"I guess I could have gone to another college to be higher up and get ranked higher," said Schnugg, "but I was more than happy with how this season went. Winning a national championship with a great group of guys is a pretty nice trade off."

Reach reporter Kevin Goff at 776-4483, or e-mail

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