EUGENE L. SCOTT | By Nancy Gill McShea
When one considers Gene Scott, the tennis writer, the tendency is to compare him to the political writer, William F. Buckley, Jr. As Buckley is the guru of the conservative party through The National Review and his nationally syndicated column, "On the Right," so too is Scott the conscience of the tennis world in his column, "Vantage Point," in Tennis Week. Scott, like Buckley, challenges people to think about issues-specifically what's right and wrong in the tennis business. The use of lofty language and the slight trace of acerbic wit lend truth to the comparison as well – a possible throwback to their days at Yale when both were members of the eclectic secret society, "Skull and Bones."
A New York City native, Scott grew up in Long Island's St. James community, where he started playing tennis at the age of 12. He received no formal instruction but he credits Elizabeth Ryan, (Italian, French and Wimbledon champ), with being his inspirational teacher. At Yale, Scott set a record that still stands, earning four varsity letters for four consecutive years in tennis, soccer, hockey and track. After Yale, he graduated from the University of Virginia Law School.
Scott showed an independent streak early, traveling alone by bus on the summer tennis circuit when he was 18. He looked like the classic "preppie" before it was fashionable, the same image he projects today. (However, rumor has it he pitched hay in his younger days, although his hands seem to have recovered from the callouses; and he currently wears a pair of 25-year-old Gucci loafers with holes in the soles.) Even then he was his own man; he talked to friends about becoming a writer and running a country newspaper someday.
Writing would have to wait, for Scott was fast becoming Eastern's world class tennis player during the 1960's-he competed on the U.S. Davis Cup team, earned the No. 4 U.S. professional ranking in 1963, was a French Open quarterfinalist in 1965 when he achieved the No. 11 world ranking, and was a semifinalist at the U.S. Championships. Scott ranked among America's top ten five times, was the U.S. Open Court titlist for five years, and the U.S. Amateur champ for ten. A competitive tennis player to this day, he has been the UST A Senior Grass Court champion for the past two years.
Tennis magazine has called Scott "The Renaissance Man," and so he is. He is a columnist, author, tournament director, attorney, film producer, TV commentator, public speaker, and athlete. His book, Bjorn Borg My Life and My Game, was No. 5 on the London Times' best seller list; he wrote and produced three award winning documentary films on the U.S. Open; he has promoted more than 150 professional men's and women's events since the start of the Open era in 1968; he was the color commentator for the "Battle of the Sexes" match between Bobby Riggs and Billie Jean King at the Houston Astrodome; he is a cofounder of the New York Junior Tennis League; he has lectured for the Practicing Law Institute; and he has tennis bylines in The New York Times, Sports Illustrated and Esquire, plus an article about champagne in HarpersBazaar. He is also the current director of Madison Square Garden's Nabisco Masters, a member of the U.S. Tennis Association Executive Board, a Vice President of the International Tennis Hall of Fame, President of the U.S. International Lawn Tennis Club, past president of the Eastern Tennis Association, and a member of the Board of Arbitration of the New York Stock Exchange.
Scott inherited his independent nature, intellectual curiosity and loyalty to friends from his family. His grandfather, Dr. Eugene C. Sullivan, invented pyrex and was chairman of the Corning Glass Works; his mother, Dorothy, is a writer; and his father, S. Lytton, who was a treasurer of the ETA in the 1960's, was the most decent human being Scott has ever known.
All of which seems to confirm and explain what friends say: "Gene is a very gifted and demanding individual. He wants to experience everything, to learn and grow at every level....He believes people either stretch themselves to reach their full potential, or they will make a pact with the status quo."
Photo Credit: Steve Berman
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JOHN J. (PAT) ROONEY | By Nancy Gill McShea
"There is a twinkle in his Irish eyes, a smile...and a warm glow on his grandfatherly face," wrote Maury Allen in The New York Post in October, 1987. Add to that his trademark Brooks Brothers tweed cap and sports jacket and his habit of arriving with flowers whenever he's a dinner guest, and a picture of John J. (Pat) Rooney emerges-a gentleman and a scholar. Not incidentally, he is also a tennis legend in his own time!
The son of a judge who wrote for the financial pages of The New York Times, and a Harvard elocution teacher, Rooney was born and educated in New York City. At age 15 he graduated from Townsend Harris High School, (today's equivalent of the Bronx H.S. of Science); and he earned an A.B. degree from Fordham University in 1924 with a philosophy/psychology major and a minor in mathematics. He never took a tennis lesson, yet he was undefeated in doubles for four years on Fordham's Varsity Tennis team. In his post-graduate years he continued to play the game, competing in amateur tournaments while pursuing career interests-as an oil field surveyor in Oklahoma, a bond salesman on Wall Street, owner of an aircraft parts business, and service in the U.S. Navy as a Lieutenant Commander during World War II-until he returned to Fordham in 1947 for a masters degree in nuclear physics to prepare for a life in the aeronautics field.
While he was a graduate student, Rooney taught math at Fordham Prep. As fate would have it, however, tennis began to dominate his time there-he has since coached the Prep's Varsity Boys' team for 40 years, and also coached their arch rivals, New York City's Xavier H.S. team, simultaneously for 15 years. The two squads practiced together amicably on the 207th Street courts, (due to Rooney's gift for reconciling natural adversaries; he stressed what a privilege it was for them to play there on clay while confiding to a friend that the surface was actually dirt), but when they squared off against each other in a dual match representing their respective schools, the "coach" wisely vanished from sight. "I understand everything perfectly," he quips, using a favorite Rooney expression. "Do you follow me?"
In 1974 the new coeds at Fordham College persuaded Pete Carlesimo (then Athletic Director) to establish a women's varsity tennis program, and Rooney signed up as head coach of the Lady Rams. They have since compiled a record with the highest winning percentage of any Fordham athletic team in recent history. Today, at circa 85 years old, (he hedges with appropriate Irish ambiguity about his age), Rooney is probably the oldest active college coach in the business and the most vocal. Ever the realist, he insists tennis is for fun. "Academics are first!" he says firmly. "We don't have a pro team here...We win (of course) but we have a good time." Indeed they do. One former team member recalled trying out for the women's squad: "He took a pen knife from his pocket, cut a rose and presented it to me. He said, 'The roses on the outside of the fence belong to the Jesuits, the ones on the inside belong to Rooney.'" And he's not above tantalizing his girls with his Tiffany's charge card; they regularly beg to borrow it for a couple of hours.
Photo Credit: Steve Berman
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JULIUS LARKIN HOYT | By Nancy Gill McShea
Julius Larkin Hoyt could be characterized as a modest, low-keyed country lawyer. He has been a practicing attorney in Newburgh, N.Y. since 1950, after he earned three degrees from Cornell University and served on Guam during World War II. But in the world of tennis he has national clout in the unlikely area of finance. His innovative contributions to the sport on the administrative level, including four terms as treasurer of the U.S. Tennis Association, date back to the beginning of the Open era in 1968.
Initially, Hoyt became involved in the game as the typical tennis parent. His son, Bert, showed promise at age 11, and the local pro suggested that the Hoyts contact the Eastern Tennis Association so Bert could play the juniors. They sent the $5.00 entry fee and they were on their way. Interestingly, the Hoyts spent much time in the company of another 1989 ETA Hall of Famer, John J. Rooney, who ran boys' 12s tournaments in those days.
Bert was an ETA-ranked junior through the 18s and went right on the pro circuit in 1974, where he ranked among the ATP's top 200 in the world. He was a touring pro for eight years, including a stint with the Bundesliga club team tennis structure in Germany. Bert remains in Germany today, working for the company, Puma, in product development.
While Bert's tennis star was rising, the elder Hoyt became increasingly aware of the financial realities of the game, coincidentally, through yet another 1989 ETA Hall of Famer, Gene Scott. Said Hoyt, "Scott accomplished a great deal as ETA president (1972-73). They were challenging times in tennis...There were no national support funds for the East. Scott inherited a deficit, reversed it with standard marketing techniques, and went out leaving a surplus."
Scott and his playing cronies, Paul Cranis and Herb Fitz Gibbon, also inspired Hoyt with their dedication to the juniors. Said Hoyt, "They got up at 5 a.m. every morning to work with kids wherever they could get court time. They were knowledgeable and committed so it was not hard to join in with them."
Twenty-one years later, Hoyt has received several distinguished service awards for his contributions to the game. The International Tennis Hall of Fame recently honored him with the Samuel Hardy Award at the USTA Annual Meeting in Hawaii in March of 1989. The Hardy Award is presented annually for long and outstanding service to tennis. Hunter Delatour, chairman of the Hall of Fame Awards Committee, cited Hoyt's "significant contributions and selfless devotion to all levels of tennis. . . Tennis is a better sport today because of Julie Hoyt's effort."
Hoyt served on several ETA committees involved with junior affairs, and then he was elected President of the ETA in 1976. He received the Distinguished Service Award for leadership as president in 1978, and the Outstanding Leadership Award in 1980. Among his accomplishments as president were: restructuring of the Eastern section into Regions with regional vice presidents, rewriting the constitution and rules, improving the financing and budgeting process, and establishing a system of periodic reporting.
Photo Credit: Steve Berman
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SIDNEY B. WOOD, Jr. | By Nancy Gill McShea
The son of a mining engineer who once was a partner of the legendary Wyatt Earp in a Nevada mining claim, Sidney Wood overcame serious childhood illness to become a world class tennis player on Wimbledon’s center court at the age of 15 in 1927. A few short years later, he won the All England Club’s singles championship at age 19 in 1931.
Born in Black Rock, Connecticut in 1911, Wood’s father, Sidney, Sr., moved the family to YouBet, a mining camp in California. They lived there for three years and then moved to Berkeley. According to Wood, he was an invalid during that time, between the ages of four and eight, with childhood diseases. But he liked to hit the tennis ball, so his father built him a court out of crushed stone from the mine’s rock pile. He says laughingly, “The ball never bounced straight, which accounted for my very short backswing.”
Wood played casually until he moved to Berkeley. When he was 11 or 12 years old, his uncle, Watson Washburn, left for Australia to compete on the U.S. Davis Cup team, and he gave Wood one of his racquets. He met Helen Wills Moody and Helen Jacobs, (who combined had won Italian, French and Wimbledon championships), and he practiced with them at a Berkeley Country Club until he was 14. Then he went East and lived with his grandmother on 79th Street in New York City where he played Eastern’s 15-and-under boys’ circuit and the junior 18s. His success qualified him for an important men’s tournament at the time, the Arizona State Championships, and he won that title while he was still 14.
By 1927, Wood had won several men’s tournaments, and he qualified for the French Championships. Surprisingly, he advanced to the third round there which got him into Wimbledon. He would play defending champ, René LaCoste, in the first round of Wimbledon’s awesome center court. Said Wood, “He was very gentle with me.”
In 1931, the year he won Wimbledon, Wood beat Fred Perry in the semis to set up a meeting in the final with his roommate and doubles partner, Frank Shields. But Shields had sprained his knee in his semifinal victory over Jean Borotra, and was unable to play the final. Wood won by default. However, the two friends had a private understanding that Wood would not consider himself the Wimbledon champ until he actually defeated Shields. He did so the following year in England’s Queens Club final, the warmup for Wimbledon.
Wood continued his education while he was playing tennis, graduating from Connecticut’s Cheshire Academy in 1929, and attending the University of Arizona in Tucson. He was nationally ranked among America’s top ten from 1930-1935, and again in 1938; he was a finalist at the U.S. National championships at Forest Hills, N.Y. in 1935 and a doubles finalist at the U.S. National Indoors with Eugene McCauliff, also in 1935; he was a member of the U.S. Davis Cup team from 1931-1934: he won the U.S. National Father-Son championships in 1956 with his son, Sidney III, who competed on Yale’s Varsity Tennis team with Gene Scott and Donald Dell; and he was inducted into the National (now International) Tennis Hall of Fame in 1964.
A resident of Southampton, N.Y. for 60 years, Wood, at age 77 today, calls himself “a mad inventor of tennis courts.” He remains active in the tennis business as the chairman of Grandstand International Corp., a firm which manufactures the tennis court surface, “Courtship.” He is also a member of the International Club (IC) of the United States, and international member of IC of France, and an honorary member of IC of Great Britain.
Photo Credit: Unknown
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