By Steve Pratt
Steve Solomon is a firm believer that there should be more to a senior tennis tournament than just the tennis.
For many years, the 82-year-old Solomon of Palm Springs has hosted some of the most popular senior events in the nation, ones that include social hours and player parties and other fun activities besides just the matches. The upcoming Husband and Wife Doubles Championships at the Mission Hills Tennis Club, played on grass, is no different.
Solomon said the six-year-old event he started from scratch is “probably four times the largest doubles event in the world” with 216 teams competing. Married couples will compete in three divisions with combined ages of 100, 120 and 140 years.
Another senior event he started “from scratch” was the Campbell’s Soup Senior Tournament that he gave up eight years ago. The event is currently the successful ASICS Senior event run by Ed Trost.
“We started that from nothing 30 years ago and got up to about 715 players,” said Solomon, who retired from his job in the early 1980s and was looking for something to do. “I had sold my company and moved out here and there wasn’t any real decent events in Palm Springs.”
He added: “The Palm Valley Country Club was new, and I felt they needed some help. I thought that starting a senior event would be a great idea for me. So I just did it.”
Solomon started with the 60 Hardcourt Nationals and soon after the USTA asked him to run the first national 90s tournament. That turned into an international 90s event. “We had 23 90-year-olds from around the world,” Solomon said. “That was a great event for the USTA. We were on the front page of the Wall Street Journal, Peter Jennings Sunday Night News. It was a terrific event and people really enjoyed it. The players were from the Depression era and had these great stories.”
After six years, Solomon said they needed to move the event to tennis courts that had a hotel attached to it. It moved to La Jolla and is now played in Laguna Beach.
Solomon, who no longer plays tennis, is the father of Tennis Channel Chairman Ken Solomon, and has some involvement with the BNP Paribas Open near his home.
Of course, the Husband and Wife teams get to take in the pro tennis while also playing their event. It’s just more fun that way. “That was the whole design of the tournament, to schedule it like that,” he said. “I wouldn’t have done it without it.”