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2019 is fast approaching, but we don't want to move on from 2018 without taking a moment to appreciate the massive changes and great successes we've seen this year. Here's what happened in the world of Topnotch Management in 2018.
Tennis, golf... and soccer!
The biggest change to the structure of Topnotch Management came in the form of the acquisition of MLC Sport. With this move, Topnotch entered the soccer world, and today our Topnotch Soccer division represents over 25 players across US Soccer's professional leagues. We continue to add talented clients from all over the world under the leadership of our new President of Soccer, Matt Cairns.
To better our capabilities and further capitalize on sponsorship opportunities, we recruited James Palko to the team. James will be the main point of contact for future sales and sponsorships efforts, and represents an important step in the growth of our company.
Successful shared events
Our partnership with Grand Slam Tennis Tours introduced two events last year, and both are still going strong. The Stowe Mountain Lodge Classic was created to be an annual US Open warmup exhibition tournament. In a year of growth, the SMLC featured more ATP players, a bigger prize money pot, and larger crowds. The cherry on top: our own Denis Kudlatook home the title at the biggest summer pro sports event. The event earned national press, topping Forbes' Place to Visit in August list. Learn more at www.stowetennis.com.
In November, Topnotch Fantasy Camps—Wailea was again a success. An intimate affair, the camp provided attendees plenty of time on and off court with TNM talent: Stevie Johnson, Denis Kudla, and Shelby Rogers. Tracy Austin and Marc Lucero rounded out the cast and reviews were uniformly excellent. Learn more at www.fantasytenniscamps.com.
Golf travel and training
2018 also saw Topnotch Golf Tours' very successful inaugural travel experience to The Masters; signs already point towards growth in 2019. Learn more and book at www.topnotchgolftours.com.
Our newest venture, The Clubhouse Cleveland, ran the course from conception to construction in 2018. The Clubhouse will become one of Cleveland's leading indoor golf facilities. At the time of writing, the build-out is in process, and the positive press in Crain's Business Cleveland mentions that doors will open January 1st. Learn more at www.theclubhousecle.com.
But of course, we're here for our athletes. Read on to see what's been going on with our clients this year.
Tennis: climbing up the ranks
Our tennis-playing athletes were very successful in 2018 and are poised for an even better new year ahead
Perhaps the biggest Topnotch story of 2018 was John Isner, who, after a shaky start to the season, perservered to win his first Masters 1000 title in Miami. John continued on to reach his first Grand Slam semifinal at Wimbledon, pushing him to a career-high #8 in the World. To cap off his amazing season, John finished in the Top 10 of the year-end rankings after competing in the ATP Nitto World Tour Finals in London. This year, the US Open Sportsmanship Award winner also won the BB&T Atlanta Open for the fifth time and competed for Team World at the Laver Cup in Chicago. The Isners also welcomed their first child, Hunter Grace, this fall. Overall, it was a great year for John—congratulations!
Younger Topnotch stars also climbed the rankings. Cameron Norrie notched Top 10 wins and a career-high ranking of No. 66; he also claimed the title of Tennis Scotland's International Player of the Year. Cam's year was highlighted by his first ATP Doubles title (in Estoril), and a sensational Davis Cup debut. Reilly Opelka, on the other hand, captured three Challenger titles in the course of the year. Starting with the BNP Paribas Primrose title, Reilly's season culminated in back-to-back titles in Knoxville and Champaign, leading him to a year-end career-high ranking of No. 100. The finals in Champaign were an all-Topnotch affair, with Ryan Shane making an inspiring run to runner-up. Yoshihito Nishioka won his first ATP title at the ATP 250 Shenzhen Open after a championship at the Gimcheon Challenger (and participation in the SMLC!). Meanwhile, Katherine Sebov won her first pro title in Saguenay
Caroline Garcia built on her successful 2017 season by reaching a career-high ranking of #4 this year; she also captured the title in Tianjin. Other career highs were recorded by Yannick Hanfmann, who made his ATP Top 100 debut after winning two Challenger titles, and Ashley Kratzer, who reached No. 200 in the WTA rankings.
Lukas Lacko claimed the trophy at the Glasgow Challenger and recorded great wins throughout the year. Shuai Zhang made headlines for defeating Serena Williams in the Tie Break Tens semifinal. Shelby Rogers, who has been recovering from an injury this year, got back on court for our Fantasy Camp. During her recovery, she commentated on the Tennis Channel and received the South Carolina Junior Tennis Foundation's “Player Who Makes A Difference” Award.
Steve Johnson notched the win in Houston for back-to-back Men's Clay Court Finals titles, then went on to win Newport as well. Stevie also got married this year—congrats to the newlyweds! In other personal news, 2017 BNP champ Elena Vesnina gave birth to her first child. Congrats, Elena!
Overall, it was an excellent year for Topnotch in tennis. Congrats to our athletes—we're looking forward to discovering what 2019 will bring.
Golf: poised for a great season
2018 was a great year for our growing golf contingent, and many of our golfers secured better positions for the coming year.
John Ashworth hosted the second annual Wishbone Brawl at Goat Hill Park, where Dean Wilson and Mike Weir defeated Charley Hoffman and Xander Schauffele. All proceeds went to the Charley Hoffman Foundation.
Aaron Cockerill earned partial European Tour and full Challenge Tour status for 2019. His first event on the European Tour was the Australian PGA Championship. Aaron also got engaged under the Eiffel Tower this year—congrats, Aaron! Also with partial status on the 2019 European Tour is Martin Simonsen, who finished T28 at European Tour Q School. Martin already had Challenge Tour status for finishing Top 5 in the Nordic League, and has been performing well after the birth of his first child. Congratulations to the new parents!
The 2019 Web.com Tour will also see Sean Walsh, who finished T7 in the Second Stage and advanced to the Final Stage of Q School to earn status, and new signing Cole Miller. Cole finished 25th on the Mackenzie Tour Order of Merit, making him exempt in to the Second Stage of Web.com Qualifying School. There, he finished T13 to advance to the Final Stage, earning him status for 2019. Cole made headlines this year for qualifying for the 2018 US Open at Shinnecock Hills, his second professional tournament!
Colin Featherstone finished 37th on the PGA TOUR Latinoamerica money list in 2018. He also got married this year—and visited the Grand Slam Tennis Tours Hospitality House on his honeymoon! Congrats, Colin! On the other side of the world is Fred Wedel, who is on his way to PGA TOUR China's Q School next year.
Congratulations to all of our golfers—we look forward to following you next year!
Soccer: an exciting start
Our entry in to the world of soccer brought many new faces to Topnotch Management, and we've had a blast getting to know all of them. Their successes this year have been exciting to watch. Here's a glimpse at just a few of them:
Richie Ryan, Paddy Barrett, Matt Bahner, and Nazmi Albadawi all claimed the title of USL Regular Season Champions with their club, FC Cincinnati. Nazmi also recently made his international debut with Palestine, scoring the match-winning goal. In addition, Nazmi was selected for the Asian Cup in 2019, and signed an MLS contract extension with FC Cincinnati.
Other MLS contract extension news came from Brett Levis of the Vancouver Whitecaps (through 2019) and Brent Kallman of Minnesota United (four years). Brett battled back from ACL reconstruction to become the starting Left Back of the Whitecaps, while Brent became a Vice Captain of his team. Fun fact: Kallman also finished eighth out of nearly 900 competitors at the Seminole Rock 'N' Roll Poker Open, winning $62,000!
Topnotch Soccer also represents Mark Lowry, who became the first Head Coach of El Paso Locomotive Soccer Club.
We're thrilled to have all of our soccer guys on board. Welcome!
We have a lot to look forward to for the 2019 season, and we can't wait to get started.
Congratulations to all of #TeamTopnotch!