Former SHS coach starting comeback at Colorado Open | SummitDaily.com

Former SHS coach starting comeback at Colorado Open

BRYCE EVANS
summit daily news
Summit County, Colorado

Special to the DailySean Carlton, donning his Daylight Donuts T-shirt, competes in a tournament earlier this summer. The Summit native is playing in the Colorado State Open starting Monday as part of a

After more than a year and a half away from competitive tennis, Sean Carlton was eager to get back on the court this past spring.

The Summit native and former Metro State star tore nearly every ligament in his left elbow about two years ago, and with titanium nuts and bolts holding it back in place, Carlton didn’t imagine the road back to the top starting so low.

“I used to always be one of the high seeds in tournaments,” he said, “and now, I’m one of the guys they throw against high seeds.”

After coming within three matches of qualifying for the U.S. Open – only three weeks after getting his cast off, mind you – and a couple solid finishes in pro tourneys already under his belt, Carlton is playing this week in the 2010 Colorado State Open at Gates Tennis Center in Denver.

“It’s good to be back (playing),” he said, “but it’s been tough, though. This week, I have a pretty hard draw. But I’m hoping if I do well, I’ll start to get my seeding back and hopefully start playing in some more tournaments.”

Carlton grew up in Summit County before his family moved to Castle Rock. He was a standout on Douglas County’s tennis squad before moving on to Metro State, the NCAA Division II school in Denver.

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Until this year, Carlton basically hadn’t played any competitive tennis since his days in Denver. He tore his elbow the following winter – initially hurting it while playing, then aggravating it more after falling on ice.

He didn’t see a doctor at first, but after the swelling and pain hadn’t subsided nearly three months later, his parents talked him into it.

“It just wasn’t getting any better,” he said. “It turned out that I tore pretty much everything.”

After surgery and months of rehab back in Summit County – which he said was aided by the encouragement of his fiance, Mindy Emery – Carlton started training again with a small cast on his arm.

During his recovery, he coached the Summit High girls’ tennis team to an impressive season, but more than anything, he simply longed to get back playing.

He played in the qualifying for the U.S. Open only three weeks after getting the cast removed and made it to the round of 16 before losing.

Then, once his elbow started feeling better, he hit a little more of a snag: money for entry fees.

That’s when he struck up a partnership with Daylight Donuts, the breakfast shop on the north end of Main Street in Breckenridge.

“I wanted to get ranked again, but all these tournaments are money tournaments, and they cost anywhere from $85 to $100,” Carlton said. “All the top guys are sponsored by big names – Powerbar and stuff – and I’m just the schmo in the mountains.

“Any amount really helps, and Daylight has been a huge help for me, huge. I feel like they’re just helping me go after my dream.”

And Carlton is hoping the Colorado Open will be the first step to doing that.

In the past, his best finish was losing in the round of 16. That’s the money round, where players then split up a $25,000 purse based on order of finish.

Carlton said he’d like to make it that far, then “just see what happens.”

More than anything, though, he said he’s just hoping to keep making his way up the ranks and continue to chase his dream.

“I keep telling myself that I’ll have to be patient and that I really have to just work on getting my seeding back first,” he said. “It’s tough but that’s what I have to do.”

Carlton’s first match of the tournament is Monday against Peter Rouch at 6:30 p.m.