Women’s History Month From A Tennis Perspective

The third month of each year salutes a host of important awareness causes, from nutrition, social work, reading and music in the schools, to physical issues such as colon cancer and bleeding disorders. On a more upbeat note, March is also Women’s History Month.

Women’s History Month began in 1911, in a round about way, when there was an International Women’s Day commemorated. By 1978 the concept had expanded into Women’s History Week. Then in 1987, March became Women’s History Month.

What better way to help celebrate Women’s History from a tennis perspective, than to look back at Southern California women who have made an impact that has been significant to the game? The ultimate acknowledgement has to be becoming a member of the International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum, in Newport, Rhode Island.

Locals who are in this exclusive group include:
(The year of induction follows each name.)

  • Lindsay Davenport – 2014
  • Marion Jones Farquhar – 2006
  • Dodo Bundy Cheney – 2004
  • Pam Shriver -2002
  • Tracy Austin – 1992
  • Billie Jean King – 1987
  • Darlene Hard -1973
  • Elizabeth (Bunny) Ryan – 1972
  • Maureen Connolly – 1968
  • Louise Brough Clapp – 1967
  • Pauline Betz Addie -1965
  • Mary Kendall Browne – 1957
  • May Sutton Bundy -1956

The Sutton Bundy family has played a historic role in the section. Not only were they in the forefront of the development of the Los Angeles Tennis Club, May Sutton Bundy and Dodo Bundy Chaney are the only mother-daughter pairing ensconced in Newport. (In 1976, May’s three sisters, Ethel Sutton Bruce, Violet Sutton Hope-Doeg and Florence Sutton became members of the Southern California Tennis Association’s Hall of Fame.)

 

Pauline Betz Addie Photo International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum, Newport, Rhode Island

Pauline Betz Addie Photo International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum, Newport, Rhode Island

Pat (Henry) Yeomans is the logical “next in line” for the historic remembrances. Her parents Bill (William) Henry, Los Angeles Times Sports Editor, and Corinne Stanton, an outstanding tennis player in her own right, were also LATC founders. Pat was the 1935 National Girl’s champion, and in pre-Title IX days, she became No. 1 on the Occidental College men’s freshman team before being told that she wouldn’t be able compete with the men anymore. Nonetheless, she won the College Girls’ Invitational in 1936 and 1937, the pre-NCAA Championships organized by Hazel Wightman. Even more important, she was unrelenting when it came to having the USTA increase the number of annual National Championships age divisions for seniors, often joking that she was the reason Dodo Cheney had the opportunity to win 393 gold balls.

Mary K. Browne Photo International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum, Newport, Rhode Island

Mary K. Browne Photo International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum, Newport, Rhode Island

In 1953, Maureen Connolly was 18-years-old and astounded the tennis world by becoming the first woman to win all the majors (a Grand Slam) in a calendar year. (The next year, she was injured in a horseback riding accident and her career ended. In 1966, she was diagnosed with cancer and died three years later. She and her husband founded the Maureen Connolly Brinker Foundation to promote junior tennis. Naming only one of the tournaments that utilizes her name, the Maureen Connolly Challenge Trophy has been awarded in a yearly competition between the best female tennis players, eighteen years of age or younger, from the US and Great Britain, since 1973.)

Louise Brough Clapp Photo International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum, Newport, Rhode Island

Louise Brough Clapp Photo International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum, Newport, Rhode Island

As a player, Karen Hantze Susman, also from San Diego, was as electric as she was elegant. A serve and volleyer, she dominated Girl’s 18 play, capturing the National singles championship in 1957, ’59 and ’60. She also swept the doubles titles from 1958-60. “She moved so beautifully on the court,” offered Sally Moore (Huss), who was the Girl’s 18 National champion in 1958, and a women’s semifinalist at Wimbledon a year later. “She had the same feel as Maria Bueno, but she was athletic while Maria was a dancer. I have always felt she was the greatest tennis player I ever saw. She had a natural serve and volley, and in those days, women didn’t have motions like men.”

Dodo Bundy Cheney Photo International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum, Newport, Rhode Island

Dodo Bundy Cheney Photo International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum, Newport, Rhode Island

In 1961, Susman teamed with Billie Jean Moffitt (King) to take the Wimbledon doubles. The pair was the youngest ever to capture the championship. The next year, she added the singles crown to her trophy collection, and again with Moffitt, claimed her second consecutive Wimbledon doubles title. (King, whose life has been chronicled many times, cannot be omitted from this look-back. She got her start in Long Beach. Her impact on women’s tennis and gender equality is incomparable.)

Maureen Connolly Photo International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum, Newport, Rhode Island

Maureen Connolly Photo International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum, Newport, Rhode Island

Huss added, “She (Susman) was very competitive. She didn’t like to lose. But, because her career was so short, I don’t think people realize how good she was.”

Because of Teddy Tinling, few realize that Gertrude (Gussy) Moran could really play. In 1949, she shockingly wore white lace panties, (designed by the innovative couturiere Tinling), under her tennis skirt at Wimbledon. Overnight, she became “Gorgeous Gussy”, and with that, an international celebrity.  Few may recall that the Santa Monica native was playing at the same time as Southern California Tennis Association Hall of Famers, Brough Clapp (2002) and Beverly Baker Fleitz (2005) and, in truth, had game, reaching a career high ranking of No. 4 in 1948. (As an aside, Moran was an SCTA Hall of Fame inductee in 2007.)

Darlene Hard Photo International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum, Newport, Rhode Island

Darlene Hard Photo International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum, Newport, Rhode Island

Southern California has always been a proving ground for talent development. This
long-time axiom is based on the competitive depth found in the section. Over the years, elite players would make others in their group better. This was certainly the case when Mary Arnold Prentiss, Barbara Breit, Pat Canning Todd, Nancy Chaffee Kiner, Julie Hayward, Anita Kanter and Helen Pastall Perez were all part of the scene.

Family units also fostered improvement. Pam and Tracy Austin are an apt example.

Marion Jones Farquhar Photo International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum, Newport, Rhode Island

Marion Jones Farquhar Photo International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum, Newport, Rhode Island

So are Anita and Kathy May, Anna, Cecilia and Elisa Fernandez, along with Cari and Susan Hagey, and Nicole and Stephanie London, to name but a few standouts.

Off the court, there have been women in administrative positions who have made an indelible mark. Doris Cook and Barbara Sportelli’s involvement with the Southern California Tennis Association immediately comes to mind. On the Community Tennis front, individuals like LaRhonda Amos, Ronita Elder, Etta Lewis, Wanda Marine, Delores Simmons, Jackie Tatum, JoAnne Taylor and Eleese Thornton have played important roles.

May Sutton Bundy Photo International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum, Newport, Rhode Island

May Sutton Bundy Photo International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum, Newport, Rhode Island

Mention Southern California tennis diversity, and Virginia Glass’ name is always near the top of the list. She has been a spiritual beacon for eons or so it seems. A former American Tennis Association President, she was the first captain of the US Women’s 70 Gibson Cup team, named in honor of the Hall of Famer, Althea Gibson. Her commitment to increasing African-American participation, in all aspects of the game, is renowned.

Pat Yeomans Photo International Tennis Hall Of Fame & Museum, Newport, Rhode Island

Pat Yeomans Photo International Tennis Hall Of Fame & Museum, Newport, Rhode Island

 

Competitively, the late Andrea Buchanan Whitmore, Beverly Coleman, Shandra
Livingston, Cheryl Jones and Alexandra Stevenson were standouts. The same can be said of Lois Horton, Roz King, Jean Richardson and Dee Williams-Horne. A pair of sisters, Camille and Vonnie Benjamin, and Diane and Rochelle Morrison can’t be overlooked. Helen Watanabe and her daughter, Tina Karwasky are also part of the mix, as is Jean Inez.

Joan Johnson, Geri Shepard and Eleanor Tennant are a few of the women who were influential tennis instructors/teachers. Using “Special People” as a category would be the perfect place for individuals such as Sally Allen, Julie Copeland, Evelyn Houseman, Corky Murdock and Kathy Willette. As a player Ruby Bishop was outstanding and continued to be when she became Mrs. Joe Bixler. Gracyn Wheeler was another talent who continued to star as the wife of the Honorable Robert Kelleher.

When it comes to touting Southern California women Tory Fretz, Carole Caldwell
Graebner, Patti Hogan, Terry Holladay, Violet Walker and Val Ziegenfuss fully deserve kudos as players. Phyllis Adler, Cathy Anderson, Uta Hegberg, Charleen Hillebrand, Dorothy Matthiessen and Suella Steel were similarly successful, and not just for a moment, but because tennis is the sport of a lifetime and that’s how history will remember them.

Carol Schneider stands alone. She was formidable on the court and a bigger force as a long-time SCTA Board member. But, her devotion to developing a meaningful ranking system in the section and nationally, makes her one-of-a-kind.

Developing a comprehensive list of Southern California women who deserve acknowledgement is next to impossible. Over the years, the number has grown and grown. (An apology is offered to anyone who has been neglected.) This has been a meager attempt to identify a collection of individuals who are the reason the section has been unrivaled over time. Women’s History month has provided the perfect venue to remember the Southern Californians who have provided the foundation for the future of tennis in the section.

Mark Winters

Tags: , , ,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*
*