Local tennis player wins amateur national title

Written by Casey Kellas, The Observer October 26, 2012 01:35 pm

The 2012 3.5 senior national championship team from left to right: Khuelien Dretke, Juday Baston, Debbie Berkowitz, Kathy Mehlenbacher, Jan Hanami, Elaine Chapman, Loretta Gohd, Becky Gardner, Judy Stromberg, Cyd Bothum.
The 2012 3.5 senior national championship team from left to right: Khuelien Dretke, Juday Baston, Debbie Berkowitz, Kathy Mehlenbacher, Jan Hanami, Elaine Chapman, Loretta Gohd, Becky Gardner, Judy Stromberg, Cyd Bothum.

Khuelien Dretke part of national-title winning tennis team 

Tennis may not be the most popular sport in Eastern Oregon, but don’t tell that to Khuelien Dretke.

Because for Dretke, tennis is a way of life.

And the amateur player recently did something that most players won’t ever accomplish in a lifetime of playing the sport. 

Dretke, of La Grande, helped her Pacific Northwest team win the 2012 USTA League 3.5 (50 and over) 

Senior National Championships at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden in
California. 

Her team, based in Tri-Cities, won six matches at the famed tennis courts to capture something that every amateur player strives for.

“It was amazing,” Dretke said. “It’s a dream come true. A lifetime achievement.

“To play on the same court as the pros do was just great.”

Dretke was a key part in winning the championship. 

Dretke and her partner, Judy Baston, were the No. 1 doubles team and defeated Northern California 2-1 in the finals.

It was the third match that Dretke helped her team win during the tournament.

But the road to get to Indian Wells was a task in and of itself.

First the team had to win the area playoff comprised of teams from Eastern Oregon, Eastern Washington and Portland. Then they had to get through sectionals, which had teams representing Alaska, Washington and Oregon.

It wasn’t the first time Dretke had made it to sectionals in her time as an amateur, dating back to 1999, but it is the first time she has made it past that point.

“I’ve been in sectionals many times,” she said. 

“It’s a lot of people’s dream just to make it to the sectional round.”

Dretke said her team is made up of players mostly based in Richland, Wash., while three members are from Hermiston. She is the only one from the La Grande area.

“There just aren’t enough players around here to play,” Dretke said.

But even though Dretke can now call herself a national champion, that doesn’t mean she is done chasing trophies.

No, she’s just getting started.

Dretke said she is moving up to play at the 4.0 level, which is for players 40 and over. And next weekend she will travel to Spokane, Wash., to compete in the area championships, with another shot at moving on to the sectional round.

“I think we have a shot,” she said.

As she’s proven, a shot is all Khuelien Dretke needs.