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Tennis: Cloquet's Tomhave heads to state

Cloquet-Esko-Carlton's Peter Tomhave returns a shot during a match at No. 1 singles in Superior earlier in the season. Jed Carlson / jcarlson@superiortelegram.com1 / 2
Cloquet-Esko-Carlton's Peter Tomhave is headed to the state tournament in individuals. Jed Carlson / jcarlson@superiortelegram.com2 / 2

Despite being a well-known dentist, it's safe to say Jim Tomhave didn't have to pull any teeth to get his son, Peter, to play tennis.

At age 3, Peter had a racket in his hand. By the time he reached seventh grade, he made the high school team. And as an eighth-grader, he was logging plenty of varsity matches.

Nowadays, the Cloquet junior is on to next week's Class A state tennis meet, just as his father did 41 years ago, as a Cloquet senior in 1977.

"This sport has been a big part of our family and just to carry this on has been pretty cool," said Tomhave, who learned the sport from his father and late grandfather, Jack, basically by the time he could walk.

Tomhave walked his way past Hibbing's Nic Cicchi 6-2, 6-2 in the Section 7A runner-up match at Duluth's Longview Tennis Club on May 23 to become the Cloquet-Esko-Carlton Lumberjacks' first individual state qualifier in recent memory.

"He's a great kid, a smart kid, a good tennis player," said fourth-year CEC coach Derek Johnson of Tomhave, who has been playing varsity for him since day one. "The beginning of the year was a little rocky, but his forehand has come around; his serve is on fire; his net game has improved; and he's cleaned up his unforced errors.

"He's got all of the tools," Johnson continued. "Now, he gets to go hit with the best of them."

Tomhave found out Wednesday, May 30 — as the Pine Journal went to press — who he plays Thursday, June 7, and Friday, June 8, at the state meet. Being the 7A runner-up to Duluth Denfeld champion David Bush 6-2, 6-0, Tomhave will not likely receive a top seed at the Reed Sweat Tennis Center in Minneapolis, but that's not dampening his optimism.

"I have some nerves," admitted Tomhave, "but to be playing my best tennis at the end of the year is a blessing and I'm hoping it continues at state."

The way the little left-hander plays, one can only assume that the 5-foot-6, 165-pound southpaw will continue his success on the court.

Led by his hard-to-handle, left-handed serve, which Tomhave admitted was "rare" to see in the sport, the 17-year-old whizzed through sections, beating his first round, quarterfinal and semifinal opponents in a combined six straight sets, 36-6.

That's pretty good for a kid who initially wanted to play doubles with teammate Kade Bender. Johnson said that he convinced Tomhave to play singles, noting that he could make a good run.

He did exactly that.

"He definitely made the right decision," Johnson said. "It's great for Peter and great for Cloquet tennis."

On top of his physical skills, also including a strong forehand, Tomhave possesses a mental game, too, Johnson noted.

"He's always asking questions of the game," he said. "And he's smart enough to make in-game adjustments."

Johnson said that along with a busy spring and summer tennis schedule, it's not uncommon to see Tomhave swatting fluorescent balls late at night around town.

"Eight, nine, 10 o'clock at night, he's hitting on the ball machine," Johnson said.

Johnson, 28, added that he, at times, grabs his racket and challenges Tomhave to a little 1-on-1 — with little success.

"We play some points," Johnson said, "but as of late, he's been hitting pretty well."

Maybe even well enough to beat his pops, who also played at St. Olaf College, and has had his son's number over all these years.

Perhaps the tides have now swung.

"At the beginning of the year, he beat me pretty soundly," Peter said of Jim — also one of his coaches who will be on the state sidelines next week. "But I'm not ready to give up."

Like father, like son.

"I'm ready to take him," Peter continued with a laugh. "Maybe next week."