Gene Mayer | by Cara Griffin
It doesn’t seem quite fair to define Gene Mayer in terms of his family. After all, on his own merit he is one of the top players ever to emerge from the Eastern section. And for that matter, he is one of the top American players of his time. It’s hard to escape the facts, though.
Gene’s brother Sandy was recently inducted into the Northern California Hall of Fame, which coupled with Gene’s induction tonight make it a unique year for the honored brothers. The two were singularly successful throughout their careers, but doubly remarkable when one considers the reality of such athletic success being attained by even one, not to mention two members of a family. Sandy and Gene were the first brothers to win a Grand Slam together (the 1979 French Open) since the Kinseys in 1929 and the Mayers are the only brothers in the open era to rank in the top ten simultaneously.
Both were coached by their father, Dr. Alex Mayer a man colleagues held in the highest regard. “He had to be one of the greatest coaches there ever was. He was opinionated and outspoken as most good coaches are, but he was just a great, great coach.” This from a man whose program has guided more American champions to maturity (including Sandy and Gene and those other brothers, Patrick and John) than any other, Stanford’s Dick Gould.
It was his father who hung tennis balls above Gene’s crib as most parents might dangle mobiles of airplanes or teddy bears. And it was Dad who encouraged Gene to spend hours knocking a ping pong ball against the living room wall. This early maturation of his natural ability could account for the quick hands that Gene had on the court, alternately by spectators as “remarkable”, “soft”, “creative”, “marvelous” and simply “great”. Gene developed into a player described by a 1981 journalist as someone who “sparkled in his inimitable way, with his distinctive style of play, featuring two fisted strokes off both sides and marvelous touch on the drop shot, and a game full of rich talent and stroke diversity.”
The talent was always there, and the potential first flourished on a grand scale as Gene won the national 12s two years running in 1967 and 1968. He played with a one handed backhand at that time, with a two handed forehand. Running around that backhand proved successful, until his post Stanford days when the two handed backhand became its own weapon. The forehand is always a weapon.
“Gene had what has to be considered the greatest two handed forehand of all time,” Gould offers. “Certainly you would have to consider Pancho Seguera who had a good one, Seguera is in that league, but Genie’s was just incredible.”
That wicked forehand certainly made believers out of his competitors as Gene spent the peak of his career as the third rated man in the United States, fourth in the world. It was his bad luck that the men ahead of him happened to be certain messieurs Connors, McEnroe and Borg. It was in 1978 that he picked up the first of two Grand Slam titles, the doubles with Hank Pfister at the French. The next year he won the doubles at Roland Garros again, this time with Sandy.
He played David Cup in 1982 and 1983, winning the Cup in 1982. The 1982 U.S. Davis Cup team featured Gene and John McEnroe at the singles spots. In the finals against France, the U.S. won 4-1, with Gene scoring an important 6-2, 6-2, 7-9, 6-4 victory over Henri Leconte on the second singles match of the opening day.
Beyond tennis, Gene is recognized as a giving individual. He is one the many distinguished Stanford alums responsible for the state of the art tennis center at the school, and he is a leader among world class players in his devotion to wheelchair tennis.
“He has flown in here a couple of times at his own expense to appear at some fundraising exhibitions,” Gould says of Gene’s contributions to his alma mater. “That helped us a lot, he was very quick to come back.”
Dan Dwyer lauds Gene as being a genuine backer of the disabled, and way ahead of his time in his attention to providing tennis opportunities for all players.
“Gene is the honorary chairman of the National Tennis Association for the Disabled,” says Dwyer. “He has always been very involved, from day one, 14 years ago, before anyone else, certainly any of the top players, were concerned. Going back about ten years ago, and you can see his sense of humor, there’s an incident that I have always wanted to get back at him for. I was playing in a wheelchair exhibition at Madison Square Garden. The match was two able bodied players against two in wheelchairs, and as you can imagine, the noise inside the Garden was just incredible. Genie was the honorary MC. There were shots being hit back and forth, and it was loud, and then suddenly there was this dead silence and a voice over the loudspeaker says ‘People in wheelchairs move faster than Danny’. It was Gene. It was also true.”
Reached his highest year end ranking of No. 4 in 1980. Also No. 4 for parts of 1981, 1982 and 1983. Rated as high as No. 3 in the United Stated in 1980 and 1981. Ranked in the world top ten from 1979-1984. Winner of 14 major singles titles, including five in 1980 alone. Gene was semi-finalist at the 1980 year end Volvo Masters, scoring consecutive wins over Borg and McEnroe. Played David Cup singles in 1982 and 1983. Crucial member of the Cup winning team in 1983, with a final round first day singles win over France’s Henri Leconte. Won 25 doubles titles, including two French Open crowns, in 1978 with Hank Pfister and in 1979 with brother Sandy. Was rated No. 2 in the United States and No. 2 in the world in doubles in 1980, 1981 and 1982. Won the 1994 U.S. Open Senior doubles with Pfister, and the 1993 U.S. Open Senior singles. Is an active competitor on the ATP Senior Tour and the Champions Tour, and appears in numerous exhibitions, clinics, fund-raisers and pro-celebrity events. Gene has served as coach to professional players such as Fabrice Santoro, Leander Paes and John Sullivan. He is the president and founder of Two Handed Enterprises, a sports marketing and consultancy firm.
Photo Credit: Steve Berman
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Harry A Marmion | by Cara Griffin
If you had told Harry Marmion when he was a young man just out of college that his future would hold such tennis accomplishments as being a ranked player in the East, serving as the President of the Eastern Tennis Association and the First Vice President of the United States Tennis Association, he probably would have looked at you a little bit funny.
He was a baseball and basketball player in his youth, and a good enough athlete to play both sports in college. Up until his thirties, Marmion had not even played tennis seriously and in his own words he now admits almost apologetically “I had no real knowledge or involvement at all in the game.”
Once he started playing, it did not take Harry long to get involved in an administrative fashion. He first joined on as an ETA volunteer in 1975 as the Long Island Delegate and went on to become the Secretary and eventually President of the ETA from 1980-81. He has been involved in the USTA ever since, with Board responsibilities since 1989. A trait that has distinguished Marmion along the way has been his ability to come up with new ideas and follow through with them even when they are perceived as “crazy” at first.
A perfect example is the creation of this very event tonight. After Marmion’s presidency ended, he continued on as a member of the ETA Board and campaigned for an Eastern Hall of Fame that would be an extravagant event.
“I felt that this had to be big time, with no kidding around,” Marmion says. “A lot of people said that it was impossible, that no one would come. People talked like I was crazy.”
Harry persisted and even suggested that the ETA commission a sculpture to be received by each recipient. That sculpture, by artist Chuck Clark, is no small part of the event.
“The Hall of Fame Dinner is a major social event in New York,” says Marmion. “Don Budge told me that the sculpture is the nicest, most distinctive trophy he has ever received.”
Another important suggestion that Marmion followed through on occurred at a national level. After extensive involvement with the U.S. Open, he realized that the average citizen did no connect the event with its governing body and suggested that the USTA change to a more distinctive logo.
Marmion was one of the people who was primarily responsible for sheparding the logo through its formative stages and introducing it at the USTA Annual meeting in 1991. It turned out to be a very important contribution.
“A lot of people had no idea that the UTSA ran the U.S. Open,” Marmion says. “The logo began to appear at the stadium and people connected the USTA with the U.S. Open.”
Marmion’s impressive management skills were first honed in 1953, when he served as an infantry officer in Japan at the conclusion of the Korean War. He remained active in the reserves throughout his tenure as President of two colleges (St. Xavier in Chicago and Southampton College in Long Island) and as a University Voce President for Academic Affairs at Fairleigh Dickinson University. He retired as a colonel in the Marine Corps Reserve.
Harry and his wife Pat have served as the honorary chairmen of the Hall of Fame Dinner in the past and acquaintances point out the Pat is very supportive of Harry’s USTA involvement, and no small part of his success. The two have three daughters, Sara, Sheila and Elizabeth, and three grandchildren. Sarah and Sheila are both Vice Presidents of major public relations firms in New York, while Elizabeth is President of a Health Care Agency in Westerly, Rhode Island.
Harry has a little tennis administration to take care of at home, and then he has several more ideas for the USTA in the future.
“One of my daughters is married to a professional golfer,” says Harry. “They have a son who may need to be swayed. I may need to step in and push tennis a little.”
Marmion feels that issues which need to be addressed in the future at the USTA include bringing the David Cup back, winning the Federation Cup and continuing to improve the Communications and Public Relations functions of the USTA so that the public knows exactly what the USTA is all about.
Those who know Harry feel that even with all he has done and continues to do at the national level, his induction tonight is unique because of what he has done for Eastern tennis in particular.
He is someone who has “served above and beyond his duties” according to one colleague, having continued his service to the ETA “even when he had national responsibilities which is a rare thing for someone to do.”
“Harry is a true ETA person and that is noteworthy,” say former ETA President Dick Scheer. “He has always found the time to contribute to the ETA. He is very dedicated and he is always available.”
A former ranked senior player, and a dedicated member of the Eastern tennis community for over twenty years. Served as secretary in the seventies and then president of the ETA from 1980-81. On the national level: a member of the Executive Committee, Budget and Finance Committee, Long Range Planning Committee, the Nominating Committee, as Vice Chairman of the Public Relations Committee and General Chairman of the Senior Tennis Committee. In 1989, he was elected Regional Vice President for the North Atlantic Region and in 1991 elected Secretary of the USTA. Promoted to Second Vice President in 1993 and First Vice President of the USTA in 1994. Board responsibilities have included: Individual Membership, Rankings, Senior Competition, Sport Science, Promotions, Media, Magazine, Yearbook, Sectional Public Relations, Education, Resources, Olympics, Communications, Sectional Communications, Marketing, Meetings, Sectional Presidents, National Tennis Center, Administration and Services Division and Professional Tournaments Division. Was responsible for the parking and highway construction portion of the new U.S. Open project.
Photo Credit: Steve Berman
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Holcome Ward | by Cara Griffin
The next time you toss the ball up and prepare to strike a serve, remember to thank Holcome Ward. It was around the turn of the century that Ward, along with some help from Harvard classmate Dwight Davis, developed what is commonly known as the American twist service. It was the first of many contributions that he would make to the game.
Tennis historian Alan Trengove writes, “Ward was so color blind that to him all tennis courts looked brown. He made up for this affliction by continually testing the eyesight of his opponents with sharply twisting services. It was his relatively short stature that he prompted him to acquire the twist service as an equalizer. It gave him time to get to the net where he was an adroit volleyer.”
At the turn of the century, a time when sports were becoming more and more a part of the American consciousness, Ward joined Davis in “growing the game” both nationally and internationally. It was on a trip to California to promote interest in tennis that Ward and two other Harvard undergraduates were witness to Davis’ idea of starting a tennis competition between Britain and the United States. This brainstorm was the origin of Davis Cup matches.
In the first ever Davis Cup tie in 1900, Ward teamed with Davis to clinch the 3-0 victory over the British Isles with a doubles win. Ward even decided the draw when he picked the names out of a straw hat before the matches. The twisting, tricky serve that the duo had been working on is said to have bedeviled the Brits, playing a major role in the United States’ capture of the Cup.
The British players, shocked to have been beaten by the Americans, complained that the grass was long, the nets were sagging and the ground was soft at the Longwood Cricket Club in Boston. British player Roper Barrett continued, “As for the balls, I hardly like to mention them. They were awful, soft and mothery-and when served with the American twist came at you like an animated egg-plum. The serve not only swerved in the air, but in hitting the ground, broke surely four to five feet…it quite nonplused us.”
Trengrove accurately points out that this experience would be the first of many to come where a visiting opponent found that home court advantage, along with local environment and climate could be all important in a David Cup tie.
Ward’s individual accomplishments as a player were superior. He was in the United States top ten for seven years, reaching the No. 1 spot in 1904. He garnered seven major US Championships, including six doubles titles and the 1904 singles crown. He was a member of the four Davis Cup squads between 1900 and 1906.
After his competitive playing career ended, Ward continued on as a businessman (he was a cotton broker in New York) and as a dedicated volunteer to several tennis associations. Ward was named to the executive committee of the national tennis association by Dr. James Dwight early in the century and went on to become a member of several national tennis committees in the 1920’s and 1930’s. Appointed to chair the Amateur Rule Committee in 1924, he resigned from that post in 1931 to chair the Davis Cup and International Play Committee.
Ward’s contributions as the Amateur Rule Committee chair were crucial, as he presided at a time when several of the USLTA’s finest players were being enticed to the professional ranks. Allison Danzig wrote of Ward’s actions during this time span, “Anyone knowing his sensitiveness and extreme antipathy to becoming involved in anything remotely approaching the air of controversy in public can appreciate how strong was the sense of duty that kept him in this work during the years of bitter controversy over the player-writer interpretation of the amateur rule…It was nothing unusual for Ward to stay up all hours of the night, analyzing and sifting evidence against the player and seeking a loophole for him. But once he made up his mind that there had been a violation, he gave no quarter…his work on the committee was unsurpassed in its devotion to the good of the game.”
Ward went to become the Eastern Lawn Tennis Association President from 1932-33 and the United States Lawn Tennis President from 1937-47. He played the game well into his seventies and dies at the age of 88 in 1967.
Spent seven years in the U.S. top ten, ranked No. 1 in 1904. Was a major player in the United States Championships during his playing career, winning six doubles (a record which still stands) and one singles title at the Newport Casino between 1899 and 1906. Appeared in the U.S. singles final twice, defeating Bill Clothier 10-8, 6-4, 9-7 in 1904 to clinch the championship. Was the runner up in 1905 when he lost 2-6, 1-6, 9-11 to Beals Wright. Teamed with Dwight Davis to reach the U.S doubles finals five years running between 1898-1902, winning the title in 1899, 1900 and 1901. Partnered with Wright to win three more U.S. doubles titles in 1904, 1905 and 1906. Other major titles on Ward’s resume include the 1899 Intercollegiate Doubles (with Harvard teammate David) and the 1901 U.S. Indoor singles championship. He participated in the first ever Davis Cup competition, teaming with Davis to win the doubles as the U.S. blanked the British Isles 3-0. He played for the cup winners again in 1902 (no competition was held in 1901) and was on the team in 1905 and 1906 (both losses to the British Isles). Ward’s Davis Cup record; 3-4 singles; 4-3 doubles. In 1922 Ward and Davis reunited to win the U.S. Veterans doubles title. Served as ELTA president 1932-33, USLTA president 1937-47, inducted into International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1956.
Photo Credit: Unknown
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Lewis H. Hartman | by Cara Griffin
Until he entered the Peace Corps in 1967, the farthest Skip Hartman had ever been from home was a trip to summer camp in New England.
“When I was young, from when I was born until I finished law school, I spent my entire life in New York City or within 150 miles of it.”
After spending time in Mexico and Chile as a Peace Corps volunteer, he felt confident that the place he would be happiest in the worked was back in New York. It wasn’t the big city that he missed so much as the people who lived there.
“The Peace Corps was a great experience,” recalls Hartman. “More than anything it gave me deeper appreciation of New York.”
“I wouldn’t have felt comfortable staying in New York if I hadn’t explored other places,” he admits. “I found that I could be happy pretty much anywhere as long as my friends and family were there, and in my case, that place was New York. It is where my roots are and it made sense to me to stay here.”
Tennis in New York City probably would not be where it is today if Skip had decided to move elsewhere.
Three years after his stint in the Peace Corps ended, Skip founded HCK Recreation with partner Bob Kelton. In 1970, they opened Stadium Tennis Center in Mullaly Park, pioneering the use of air structures for indoor tennis on public land.
Hartman’s role in the indoor tennis boom in New York City has been a pivotal one, and he is proud of that for a couple of reasons.
“We created jobs through something that wasn’t there before and we provided people with a place to play” says Hartman. “That space was unused and then you put a bubble over it, and you can play year round.”
The summer after opening Stadium Tennis Center, Skip first became involved with the New York Junior Tennis League when he hired Sydney Llewellyn to run an NYJTL program at Stadium.
In the next dew years, as the National Junior Tennis League expanded, with Arthur Ashe and Donald Dell securing national sponsors such as Coca-Cola, the opportunity arose for Skip to become the President of the NYJTL branch. He has been running the NYJTL ever since.
“Because our business (HCK Recreation) was premised on the use of public land, involvement with the NYJTL was certainly a good thing,” says Hartman.
Since 1971, the NYJTL has raised nearly $20 million to help provide free tennis programs for New York City youths. Over 170,000 youngsters are involved in the program which is run on converted tennis courts on sites such as school yards and playgrounds throughout New York City.
From 1988-94, Skip served as the ETA Metro Regional Vice President. During this time he worked hard to help make regionalization work in the ETA, finding ways to generate funds so that individual ETA regions could be partially self-sufficient.
“During that time, there was a great group which included Elaine Viebranz, Dan Dwyer and Lou Dimock as Presidents,” says Hartman. “The leadership was exceptionally good, and we were able to take a fresh look at things and do some effective strategic planning.”
Out of the Metro region under Skip’s helm grew the innovative program Play Tennis New York, which developed the idea of offering low cost community wide tennis lessons to serve the game and not simply the clubs and court owners. Hartman has also been involved in the implementation and creation of national programs such as the USTA Schools Program and the National Tennis Teachers Conference.
One of the more successful entrepreneurs in New York City, it can be said of Skip that he has given to the game as much as he has gotten back.
“I get a great deal of satisfaction out of the fact that these things that we have been involved with have continued to grow,” says Hartman. “I think I have a knack for organizing my ideas and persisting and making it significantly replicable so that others can do it as well. Some of these ideas have been better for me, and some have been better for tennis. That’s not a lament. It’s just how it is.”
President of the New York Junior Tennis League since 1971. Along with partner Bob Kelton, pioneered the use of air structures for indoor tennis on public land, opening Stadium Tennis Center in Mullaly Park in 1970. A member of several USTA national committees; has been recognized by the USTA and the International Tennis Hall of Fame for his work in developing USTA programs, specifically the National Tennis Teachers Conference, the National Junior Tennis League, the USTA Schools Program and Play Tennis America. An advisor to the mayor of New York City on the U.S. Open project. Served as ETA Metro Regional Vice President for six years and currently serves on the Metro Management Committee as head of Junior Introductory programs.
Photo Credit: Steve Berman
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