Catonsville Badminton Club promotes competition, camaraderie and charity

A change of venue won't stop Rick Wiker and the 85 members of the Catonsville Badminton Club from continuing to enjoy the game they love and help support charitable cause.

While the club will move from the Bloomsbury Fieldhouse on Bloomsbury Avenue to Catonsville High School on April 2, Wiker and his wife, Nancy, will continue organizing the Baltimore Badminton Charity Open, which will be held on April 11 and 12.


The event is sponsored by the Catonsville and Loch Raven badminton clubs and guarantees a minimum of $1,000 will be raised for the American Red Cross.

Wiker, 65, held the first Charity Open in 2005 at the Western School of Technology and Environmental Science (Western Tech) in Catonsville. The money was raised to benefit tsunami victims after the 2004 earthquake that claimed an estimated 230,00 lives along the Indian Ocean coastline.


The tournament has since moved to the Northeast Regional Recreation Center in Parkville, formerly the Perring Racquet Club. That facility is more expansive and has more courts, which can handle the approximately 160 players who will compete over the weekend.

Players can chose which Red Cross fund they want to support. Options are: International Response Fund, National Disaster Relief Fund and Central Maryland Emergency Assistance Fund.

"At the end of this tournament, I suspect we will have contributed $50,000 to Red Cross (in the past 10 years)," said Wiker, who joined the club in 1975 and became president in 1978..

The tournament has raised $44,060 for the Red Cross in the previous nine years. Last year's event raised $5,914.62.


To enter, players pay a minimum $10 fee, which goes directly to the charity, but they can donate more. They also pay an additional $15 for each category in which they participate.

The first day of the tournament features: open men and women's singles and open men and women's doubles. The second day includes: open mixed doubles, senior men's and women's doubles (over 40) and girls and boys singles and doubles.

Wiker, will play doubles in the charity event with his playing partner of 15 years, Thomas Plakkal.

"For a non-ranking tournament, this is like the best tournament there is," said 2012 Catonsville High graduate Hashem Choudhry, who plays in out-of-state tournaments that earn him ranking points and who also won a Maryland state championship in 2013.

"The biggest tournaments are out of state," said Choudhry, who placed second in the A Division of a singles tournament in Virginia, March 21 and 22.

Players are ranked in divisions A, B, C and D with A being the highest.

In 2006, Wiker won the B division singles title at the charity tournament.

Choudhry, 20, is currently a student at Towson University and would like to be a singles champion, but knows the out-of-state competition makes it tough.

He plans to play in more ranked tournaments over the summer. But in the meantime, he'll tune up his game with Catonsville Badminton Club members, a cast that has steadily increased since Wiker's son, Nick, built a website in 1993.

"We have quite a mixture of players," Rick Wiker said. "They all started to come once we had an Internet site."

The club, which was started by the late Hank Bonnet in 1962, hosts weekly sessions year-round on Sundays from 7 to -9:30 p.m. In addition, there are also sessions from mid-March to early October on Tuesdays and Thursdays (when basketball season is over), from 8 to 10:30 p.m.

Cost is $45 per year ($100 per family). When courts are filled, players sign up and wait their turns. "That's not bad considering you get about 100 sessions of play," Wiker noted.

There is also a session for novice players and children under 16 held at Western Tech, year-round on Sundays from 7 to -9:30 p.m. Cost is $3 for children and $5 for adults.

That's the ideal starting point for anyone who wants to play the game. "We usually require they come and visit a few times to see if we match what they are looking for, before they spend their money," Wiker said.

The move to Catonsville High from Bloomsbury allows more players to participate at the same time, because it has room for six courts instead of four.

Although Choudhry is looking forward to going back to his alma mater, where he won a silver medal in the Baltimore County tournament as a senior, he's going to miss the intimate Bloomsbury Fieldhouse setting.

"It just has a lot of really good memories because this is where I started," Choudhry said. "I remember me and my friend were talking about taking something from this club because this was our last week here and we wanted something to remember it by."

The club has to leave the facility because construction of a new Catonsville Elementary School at the adjacent building, will make the field house the school's gymnasium.

While Choudhry is the top young player in the club, he continues to come back and play because he likes the camaraderie.

"The people here are really nice," he said. "They are social and I like that."

Ray Moy, 52, also likes that aspect.

"Coming here is something you look forward to every week," said Moy, in his fourth year with the club.

His son, Kevin, who played badminton at Owings Mills High, told him about it.

"I needed exercise and it's a good workout and it makes you sweat," Moy said. "There are a lot of very competitive people to play with and to learn from."

Moy is playing doubles in the charity tournament because he says, "I'm too old and slow to play singles."

Being slower or older, like Wiker, who is the second oldest member by a week, doesn't stop them from enjoying the social gatherings sponsored by the club.

That includes two holiday parties in December and a summer picnic at Patapsco State Park.

That hearkens back to the stories about the club in its earlier years.

"It was more like a social club," Wiker said. "Guys would play and then they would go out drinking."

The social aspect continues to be a drawing point, as men and women from all nationalities convene on the court.

Wiker, a Maryland C and D champion in the 1970's, who finished third in the senior nationals in 2011, met his future wife at the club.

The couple is not the only one that met through the club. "I think we've had four or five marriages that have sprung from meeting here," Wiker said.

The club has also continued to help local causes as well. Each year, the Catonsville Badminton Club donates $500 to the Catonsville High School after prom party.

Asked if the upcoming Baltimore Badminton Charity Open is the biggest tournament of the year, Wiker had an easy reply.

"Yes, because it's the one I run, so that requires approximately 100 hours of volunteer time," he said.

For information on the club, go to CatonsvilleBadminton.org.

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