Owen Brown isn’t sure how long that tennis racquet had been in the garage of his home, or what drew his young eyes toward it, many years ago.

Maybe it was age. Maybe it was wanting a new challenge after he had just stopped playing baseball between his fifth- and sixth-grade years of school in Grayson County.

From the time he grabbed the racquet and his father, Chris, saw him with it and took him to hit balls that same day, it’s been a love affair of the game for Brown, a graduating senior at Grayson County High School.

“I was like, ‘You know what, I want to go try it out and I wanted to come out and try it out’ and I loved it right from the start,” Brown said Monday at the school courts by Grayson County Middle School. “…Dad asked me if I wanted to come out here and hit a little bit, so we came out here and hit a little bit. We just kind of messed around and hit it; it was my first time.

“As soon as we were leaving I asked if we could come back the next day and I started coming up pretty much every day and started taking lessons,” Brown continued.

He began showing up at Cougar tennis camps for more instruction, and the love of playing translated into working hard at his game to get better.

His game developed to the point of where he is today as the 3rd Region boys’ singles champion — a first for GCHS.

“That’s the beauty of Owen’s success, he puts the time and effort in,” GCHS veteran coach Sherry Vincent said. “It’s been a deliberate commitment by his parents and him. We go to places, and coaches request that Owen plays and the coaches sit their players out by his match to see it, to illustrate the level of play they could play at.”

He won four matches in winning the 3rd Region title in Owensboro after reaching the tournament final as a sophomore and junior. He defeated Edmonson County’s Brayden Johnson in this year’s final.

He also received the Luke Woodward Sportsmanship Award.

“I definitely had pressure, me being a senior, and I feel like people were looking at me to pretty much win the thing,” said Brown, who takes a 21-0 record into next week’s state tournament in Lexington. “They expected me to show up and win it, but that’s not how it went. I still had to put forth the effort and work to get it done.

“It means a lot. I started working on it coming out here sixth-grade year,” he said. “I was hoping to get it before now, but I was happy to get it at least one time.”

Vincent says Brown “is an accomplished player,” and his record and titles back that. He has 20 career singles titles, and he is the third-ranked singles player in Kentucky by the Tennis Recruiting Network. Among his singles titles are last year’s win in the prestigious Joe Creason Kentucky State championships.

Last year he earned a state tournament seed, and that is again expected this season.

“It’s a great honor to go, and it’s amazing to get to play against the best players in the state,” said Brown, 18. “Last year I got seeded, and that was awesome.”

Brown, who has signed to play at Kentucky Wesleyan College, said the improvement he has made on the court starts with how he’s improved his mental game.

“It’s not really a huge progression over the years physically with your strokes and all that, but mentally I’ve become more experienced and I’ve been able to think smarter out on the court and strategize my points more, and it’s what’s helped me win more matches over the years against better players,” he said. “In the past I would have gotten mad at myself, but I’ve learned to slow it down and think on the positive side and the point is already over so I have to move on to the next point anyway.”

Quick on his feet, he said his ability to chase down shots and move on the court has been a big plus in his career.

Vincent said she has seen Brown elevate his mental game to win key points, and matches, and that has helped him become the player he is today.

“He’s a savvy little player, all-court player, good hands,” she said. “He’s got a lot of weapons, but that has come through a lot of progression and development like any player. His developmental game and his mechanics have been right on pace from my experiences with players.”

She said when he began his tennis journey “he was like a little sponge. He took it all in, and it’s a progression and everybody’s journey is a little different.”

Brown’s began on that day when he spotted a tennis racquet in his garage and quickly embraced a game that he clearly loves.

“Owen has not been afraid to have larger goals than the people or teammates around him,” Vincent said. “…He did not settle for mediocre, and his ultimate goal was to be a regional champion and to have those opportunities afford him an athletic scholarship. He’s been well accomplished here as a tennis player, and we’re very proud of his success.”

Jeff D’Alessio can be reached at jdalessio@thenewsenterprise.com

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