Column: On the court with Ron Barnes
Originally Published: November 6, 2008 8:35 p.m.
Who lives right here in Prescott that has been ranked No. 9 in the country as an All-American college tennis player, and is fifth in the public parks ranking? He compiled a collegiate record of 47-3 at William & Mary while never losing a five-set match or any matches where he held a match point. A player, who was asked to join the tour, but turned the offer down to finish his education.A product of the public courts from the state of Missouri who went on to win more than 100 tournaments in his tennis career. He's written books, been active in the civil rights movement of the 60s, been an educator, business owner, consultant to over 200 U.S. companies, founder of Prescott Area Leadership and former Courier columnist. If you haven't already guessed, it's our very own Ron Barnes.How old were you when you first picked up a racquet, who were some of the people who helped you reach the level you attained and why the sport of tennis?Eleven, and my dad taught me how to play. Never had a professional lesson. Played other sports, but tennis appealed because I could practice against a wall whenever I wanted. I picked up the game easily and quickly (a certified freak!), loved the individual competitive nature of the sport and enjoyed the company of the people I competed against.You played for the college of William & Mary and mentioned they had a very good team. What years did you play for them and what was college tennis like then?Freshmen were not allowed to compete on the varsity back then. Played on the team 1950, '51, '52. Since W&M had the longest college winning streak, we were a target. At that time, we played the best teams on the east coast, and tennis was a major sport at those colleges and universities.Who were some of the best players of that era that you got to compete against?(Pancho) Gonzalez, Art Larson and Tony Trabert. Gil Bogley, twice the National Junior Singles Champion, was my partner when we won the Far East All-Army Doubles Championship in Japan in 1953 ... and we're still good friends.What were the strengths of your tennis game?Endurance and consistency. I was best on slow clay courts, since I could stay out there all day and didn't make many errors. I would wear opponents down.Do you have any matches that stand out in your mind as a college player?In college I played the Eastern Collegiate champion. Lost the first set 0-6. He had a BIG GAME and I had decided to play my big game. Stupid decision, especially since I didn't have BIG GAME. Returned to my usual consistency/placement strategy after the bagel and won the next two sets, 6-0, 6-0.As a working adult, what role did tennis play in your life?Until a shoulder problem ended my tennis playing days in 1989, tennis was a major passion and my emotional escape. No matter the problems or stresses, once I stepped on a court, I was in a different world; one that gave me comfort, satisfaction and enormous pleasure.Why do you believe the game of tennis has so much appeal?It appeals because it's fun and good exercise. Plus, you can be slow, crotchety, liver-spotted and wear knee braces, but because you know how to yell "YOURS" to a doubles partner, you can play this great game for life!As an educator, what role do you believe that a Parks and Rec department or school system has in teaching sports such as tennis to its students and community members?Fortunate are the youngsters who are taught tennis in their schools. Lucky are the folks who can learn the sport through town or city recreation departments and who live near well-maintained courts. And blessed is the little kid who, like me, has someone who gives him a racquet and a can of balls, then takes him to a nearby tennis court and shows him how to hold a racquet and hit a tennis ball.(Chris Howard is a local USPTA Tennis Professional with over 30 years in the racquet and fitness industry. He can be reached at 445-1331 or email@example.com)