PRATT: Giving Back Has Always Been Focus for Former College Star Zoller

Bob Zoller has no intention of stopping his generous giving to the proud people of India. In fact, the former Southern California junior tennis standout is stepping up in his efforts to help one of the poorest countries in the world.

Zoller, a former UC Irvine and Cal Poly tennis player who has been working and residing just outside of Kansas City for the past 25 years, has a special place in his heart for the extreme poor in northeast India after visiting there for the first time to assist a friend in 2001. He has been making an annual trek there for the past several years, and will now increase the travel to twice a year with trips planned for next month and again in February.

Zoller’s ThunderZoll organization founded in 2014 works with local India partners at orphanages and churches in helping the rural communities in need.

Bob Zoller, at left in blue shirt, will increase his visits to India to twice a year beginning next month.

“Many tennis players have helped with the India work over the years and that’s why I’ve designated my two projects as: Tennis Players for Helping India, as a way to come together and give back to those that don’t have much,” Zoller said. “We are talking about even the basic living necessities and having enough food to eat.”

Zoller is a childhood friend of current SoCal Tennis Association Board member Carlos Cruz-Aedo, whose Tennis Lovers For Charity raises funds for needy groups. Zoller said the two groups will be working together on some “long-lasting legacy projects” that both hope will continue for years to come.

“Tennis has been so good to me for many years and I’ve found that tennis players are generally very decisive, successful, and generous with their time and resources,” Zoller said. “So many of my friends are tennis players and I wanted to get the community involved in giving back.”

The 56-year-old Zoller has helped the Indians open a retail store in Nagaland in the Northeast that helps provide funds for new work in the state of Karnataka in South India. “We try to help the locals be self-sustaining when we can especially for ongoing costs of running the services,” Zoller said. “But there is still a big need for funds to help the work get started.”

Zoller, who is in construction business, said introducing the Indians to the game of tennis is another passion of his. “I would love to have a tennis coach join me on one of the trips,” Zoller said. “They really love it when we roll the balls out. I so wish they could have more. But we are doing the best we can.”

Zoller played under coach Gregg Patton at UC Irvine, but after his freshman year had burned out on tennis and was ready for a change and he decided to transfer north and play for then-Division II Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo.

Zoller played No. 5 singles on the 1985 Mustang team that finished third in the nation. Zoller connected with Cal Poly Coach Hugh Bream and Bream immediately went to work to make him a better player. The following year, Zoller played No. 1 singles and doubles and led the Mustangs to its first-ever NCAA Championship. He also teamed with Paul Landry to capture the NCAA Division II doubles title in 1986, finishing his college career as a three-time Division II All-American in singles and doubles.

A quick Google search of Bob Zoller lists a story from the Cal Poly website showing Zoller being inducted into the Cal Poly Athletics Hall of Fame a few years back. It’s a fact the always-modest and humble Zoller didn’t mention in the interview.

Zoller prefers the spotlight to not be pointed at him describing his personal achievements, but instead to shine it on the incredible need and work that continues to be done in one of the poorest countries in the world.

For more information on ThunderZoll, go to: www.ThunderZoll.org.

For more information on Cruz-Aedo’s Tennis Lovers For Charity, go to:

https://www.facebook.com/donate/192625724965035/

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