Originally Published: December 20, 2016 5:50 a.m.
There’s a guy who is and yet really isn’t that well known who played on the tour from 1967 to 1974, born in Ontario, Canada, in 1945 and was early on a better hockey player than tennis - playing both sports for the University of Toronto.
This guy, Peter Burwash, was a scrapper - he knew no way but 100 percent, playing with a zeal of competitiveness that made spectators watch in wonderment.
As the story goes in hockey, it’s just a brutal game. You check and get checked - into walls and other people - pucks fly at speeds faster than you can react ... teeth and facial bones get crushed, hockey sticks move just as quick with follow-throughs that land on other than the fast-moving puck making tempers flair. Peter, in his day, had lost more than a handful of teeth, and in what became his last game on the ice ran into a penalty-box door left slightly ajar going full speed ... it left him paralyzed from the waist down for over an hour.
It was a game-changer. That moment took him from the game he prided himself completely to tennis, which he also played successfully at the University of Toronto.
Within a week, he had closed the door of hockey and began his new goal of making the tennis tour. Living on pennies a day, sleeping on floors, doing odds and ends of whatever it took to make it to the next event. The “Flying Canadian,” as he became known, did everything he knew how to stay in the game, and as the writing on the wall became evident that a living on the tour wasn’t going to happen to the degree Peter hoped, he developed an idea for a new business using the knowledge and contacts he’d acquired.
After eight years trying to eek out a career on the tour, winning 19 international titles in singles and doubles and playing Davis Cup for Canada, Peter devised a plan to create an international tennis company (1975) that would let others experience other cultures, with the enjoyment of tennis at top hotels, resorts and clubs around the world, thus creating PBI (Perter Burwash International).
His efforts put forth in one vein on the tour, now turned to business, creating a delivery of great tennis programs and quality customer service with top tennis professionals trained to be multi-lingual, and passion for such. His and their hard work and dedication, honesty, integrity, values and special skills have in the past 40 years made PBI what it is today: very successful.
Peter has business in 32 countries, 52 exclusive properties, has expanded his career personally beyond his first goal to play professionally to coach, author, motivational speaker, tournament commentator, father and founder of PBI.
Burwash has written 11 books. “Tennis for Life,” published in 1981, has sold more than 1 million copies, coauthored with John Tullius, making it one of the most read tennis books ever written. Other topics he has covered over and beyond tennis are leadership, service, teenager growth, health, vegetarian benefits and life skills. No wonder he has such a great deal of motivational speaking engagements with Fortune 500 companies.
I happened to hear of PBI and Peter after taking over the Del Webb La Posada Resort as their tennis director. It was a beautiful resort in the Phoenix/Scottsdale area with six tennis courts. I’m not sure why they made the change but I certainly appreciated the opportunity of heading up my own programs there, starting a pro shop, stable of pros starting a local club intertwined with the resort and expanding my career. I have also met many pros from the Burwash organization that exceed the norm for the profession, due to Peter’s training, continuing education requirements and hiring skills.
Peter called me out of the blue after I had written a column about the great player Gardner Mulloy on how to get a book Mulloy had written that was available only in England. He died this year at the age of 103. Guess the world of tennis is smaller than most think even though it is worldwide.
Now at the age of 71, Peter Burwash is still driven expanding in all directions. This year he was the 10th person to be inducted into the Tennis Industry Hall of Fame, which is one of the top honors in the world of tennis. He has also received honors at the International Tennis Hall of Fame for Educational Merit.
He is not one to look for accolades, but with all he’s accomplished and continues to do, it honors not only him, but all the people who have surrounded him throughout his life and career.
It’s these type of people, the doers, who keep the game of tennis vibrant and far-reaching. Thank you so much, Peter Burwash!
Chris Howard is a local USPTA Tennis Professional with over 40 years in the racquet and fitness industry. He can be reached at 928-642-6775 or choward4541@.com.