There's been this guy in my life since around 1976 by the name of Vic Braden.
I've never met him in person, but have built him up to semi-god status in my mind. And even if I had the chance to come face to face, I'm not sure I'd want to. You see, I like the image I've conjured and want it to stay that way.
He has been my mentor and our lives have crossed throughout my adult tennis career.
My first encounter was through a friend in Ohio who knew Vic when he taught tennis and went to school in Michigan. If my memory serves me right, he lived with her family for some time there. Mary Verdon was the President of our tennis association and club in Granville, Ohio, where I was the assistant and later head tennis pro.
Mary knew that I wanted to get highly involved in the world of tennis and she suggested I meet with Vic and see if I might get a job at his tennis college in California. She wrote me a nice letter of introduction, telling of my skills and enthusiasm for the game and asked if he might consider me if any positions were open.
I also had an interview set up at the Arizona Biltmore Resort in Phoenix, with the general manager, Mr. Connor. He had roots to Granville, Ohio, where at one time he managed the Granville Inn.
To make a long story short, I got the job at the Biltmore and never made it on over to Coto de Caza, which has always led me to wonder ... what if?
The following year, 1977, Vic came out with what most tennis instructors and players considered the bible of tennis, Tennis for the Future.
The tennis boom was on and Vic was riding the crest of the wave with his sense of humor, scientific proven teaching methods, tennis college, books, tapes, etc.
And in many ways I was on my own wave (much smaller, except to a small-town Ohio boy) venturing to become tennis/sports director at a 5-Star Resort, The La Posada Resort, nestled up to Camelback Mountain in Paradise Valley.
A lot of what I taught came directly from Vic Braden, even stealing many of the quotes in his book. Why reinvent the wheel when it was running so well?
When we opened up the Prescott Racquet Club in 1985, we (I) tried to see if we could get Vic to be our touring pro. We were even going to offer him one of our units if we could get him to sign on the dotted line. He was just too busy (and making too much money) to do anything but a daily visit for the small sum of $5,000 a day plus expenses.
Heck, Virginia Wade was the touring pro at the Biltmore for $30,000 a year plus expenses and that was for 30 days a year. (Then she won Wimbledon and her price went up.)
Anyway we passed on the one-day clinic, and went with the likes of Butch Waltz for around $500 for a weekend clinic and exhibition. Butch was a semi-finalist at the U.S. Open one year and was well-liked on the men's tour.
Years passed and the Braden name wasn't as prominent. Nick Bollettieri was the new coach for the masses. The tennis boom had subsided, too. Some of my bubble burst with a divorce and a partnership gone bad at the Prescott Racquet Club. A time to reflect and regroup.
About 10 years later, Braden started updating his original book and came out with a new book titled TENNIS 2000 and new life was breathed into his career.
As for me, at the age of 40 I decided to start playing enough tournaments to get a ranking in the State and Southwest Section and found out I was still a decent player. I jumped out of managing health clubs and went back to my first love, teaching tennis and haven't stopped since.
Someday I'll meet Vic and thank him for the wonderful ride he has provided me and thousands of others. But until then I'll just keep using Braden's motto because it's just so fitting for this game, "Laugh and win."
•The Annual Tennis Christmas Party-Dinner and Dance being held at the newly remodeled Prescott Racquet Club is set for Saturday, Dec. 11 from 6-11 p.m.
All tennis players are invited to attend, but the deadline to make your reservation is approaching fast, Nov. 26. Tickets for the event are $25 per person and include your choice of stuffed breast of chicken or roast beef as jus with vegetables and dessert.
Send choice of entrée' and check to: PATA - PO Box 3901 - Prescott, AZ 86302.
•I was looking through the field of players in an upcoming two-tier national tournament that a few good Prescott players are entering and low and behold I came across the name of a former Australian winner, Roscoe Tanner. Yep, he's playing in the Fiesta Bowl, in men's 50 singles and doubles events. Not so sure I'd want to be across from his serve since it has been noted as one of the fastest ever recorded. Should be fun.
•Roger Federer, hands down the world tennis champion of 2004. This man is unbelievable in what he can do on a tennis court to most any player on any given day.
He won the Master's Championship over Lleyton Hewitt in two sets in Houston on Sunday and is being touted as the best player of all time. I'm becoming a believer.
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