TEACHING PRO SPOTLIGHT: Hank Pfister
Hank Pfister had an idea when he started out as the Stockdale Country Club Director of Tennis 26 years ago: to put on a tennis event where his members could experience some of the same things he did while playing on the ATP Pro Tour.
The Stockdale Country Club Invitational was born and another year of the popular member event was recently concluded successfully. The two-day round robin tournament pairs players of similar ability against one another on the first day, and then the second day the player with the most games is teamed up with the player who wins the least games to even things out and make for more competitive matches.
“All the players have a blast,” said Pfister, a Bakersfield native. “I wanted to be able to treat the amateur players like I was treated as a pro so when they check-in all the players get a player bag with gifts, and a continental breakfast is served each morning. For the $100 entry fee, all their food and beverages are taken care of.”
The event averages about 60 players each year. “That’s about all we can take with our seven courts,” said Pfister, who won two French Open doubles titles in the early 1980s and reached as high as No. 19 on the ATP World Tour rankings. “It’s labor intensive because the draws change after the first day. It’s not like running a tournament. This thing is a beast for two days.”
The stately Stockdale Country Club has been in existence for nearly 90 years, and in 1972 Pfister’s father Hank opened the tennis facility. In 1998, Stockdale added two grass courts, bringing to the San Joaquin Valley the only first and only grass courts.
But all the buzz around Stockdale lately has been about the brand new tennis and fitness facility that opened last year that replaced the old one and is four times as large. “It’s a jaw-dropper when you walk in here,” Pfister said. “You walk in and go, ‘Wow.’ I’d put it up against any tennis fitness facility in the country.”
The 64-year-old Pfister still manages to teach on court 16 to 18 hours a week.
“I have players that come into town that I teach, but don’t have any high ranking or high performance juniors currently at the club.”
Stockdale does have an active junior program with 35 to 40 kids currently in daily after-school clinics. Robert Limpias is the Stockdale junior director and the current president of the Kern Community Tennis Association, an organization started by Pfister.
Pfister and the SCTA’s junior director Trevor Kronemann recently coached the SCTA Maze Cup team to a victory over the USTA NorCal Section bringing the cup back to Stockdale. “It’s a special event, and we have the cup displayed at our club right now,” Pfister said. “For years the Bakersfield Racquet Club was the Southern California host of the event, but it’s coming back to Stockdale next year.”
He added: “It’s a very prestigious event. You see names like Sampras and Davenport and Chang and the kids see that and just light up. They realize this is a big deal, kind of like Davis Cup.”
Pfister said the BRC does a great job hosting the $25,000 USTA Futures event each March with upwards to 300 fans attending the finals weekend.
In the year 2000 and because of his two Grand Slam wins, Pfister was invited to be part of The Ojai’s 100-year anniversary and unveiling of the Wall of Fame. Tournament organizers thought it would be fun if a Wall of Famer also played in the event. “I said sure, you can put me in the 45s,” Pfister said. “They said they didn’t have a 45s, so I said they could put me in the 35s. They said they didn’t have a 35s. I asked what they had, and they said I could play in the singles and doubles.”
At the age of 48, Pfister ended up making it all the way to the Open doubles finals with Steve Wooldridge. “I didn’t realize we’d be playing three matches a day,” he said. “It was a very stressful time for me physically. It took me a week to recover.”
Pfister doesn’t compete on the senior tour, and says his competitive playing days are all but over. “I can still hit a good ball,” he said. “I could keep playing, but it’s just too tough on the body.”
Pfister has had 13 reconstructive surgeries on his knees, ankles and hip. “I haven’t had any replaced yet. It’s all original equipment, it’s just kind of warn out and sore.”
For a local Bakersfield TV news interview on Pfister before Wimbledon last year, click HERE.