San Marino Tennis Foundation

History

San Marino Tennis Foundation was established because, in 1967, three San Marino mothers saw the need for more tennis courts in the community. When Char Wachtel, Frannie Brossy and Susie Trotter started the afternoon tennis program at Huntington School, they realized the three courts could never accommodate all the students who were interested (over 100 signed up for the program). These three ladies called a meeting of other interested parents to discuss the building of additional courts of better quality. There was great support and enthusiasm shown at this first meeting, called by Char Wachtel, President of Huntington PTA. Doris Clark suggested her husband, Stan, might be interested in giving leadership to this idea. Stan was a natural, being former NCAA Tennis Champion and a local attorney. Stan's knowledge of the law was helpful in writing the Articles of Incorporation, and forming a non-profit organization in 1968.

Lacy Park was inspected as a possible site for the new courts, as this tiny northwest corner of the park was vacant, only being used as a dump, and not really an integral part of the park. This area seemed to be perfect, and after many meetings with the San Marino City Council, approval was finally granted. The concession agreement with the city was signed on June 26, 1968. Only residents in the San Marino school district could be members, but the courts were available to all for a daily fee. The steering committee called prospective members in the community offering memberships for $350 a family. Harry Booth, the first Treasurer of the Foundation, collected these funds (approximately 210 families joined). Their monies, plus loans from a friend of tennis and the bank, allowed for the six professional courts to be built, plus a small pro shop. Under superb leadership of Don Scott, Chair of the Building Committee, the land was graded, the courts laid out in a perfect angle to the sun and the Pro Shop built from local resident Bob Millsap's design. The total construction costs totaled approximately, $112,300. It was not long before the loans were completely repaid thru membership fees as well as guest fees.

The opening day was held on Saturday afternoon, June 14, 1969 and was a gala affair! Stan Clark presided as the first President of SMTF, the Boy Scouts posted the colors with a flag that had flown over our U.S. Capital, a gift from our Congressman Glen Lipscomb. Allan Laws, the Mayor of San Marino, cut the ribbon with a large pair of shears and the dedication of the new facilities to the city was completed. Next was an exhibition match by the new Pro at SMTF paired with Stan Clark against Pancho Segura (for many years the number two ranking player in the world) and Hugh Stewart (ranked number one in the 35 years age group in 1965). It was a great doubles match-no one remembers who won!

Mention must be made of Paul Dobbins, San Marino Park Superintendent. Paul and his wife lived in the Thurnher house on Virginia Road in Lacy Park and all the way through the process, from before the concession agreement until he retired from the City, was very helpful in every way to the tennis facility and the San Marino Tennis Foundation. He helped with the design of the landscaping, sprinklers, planting and care of the trees, shrubs and flowers. He was truly proud of the tennis facility which was part of “His” park.

Interest in tennis was at an all-time high; everyone wanted to play tennis, or thought they did, so there was much action on the courts in these early years. From the beginning, children's tennis clinics were offered at Lacy, as well as private lessons for all ages given by the pro or his assistants.

The first Pro was Dick Leach - a perfect choice. He was a teacher at Arcadia High School and a coach of the Varsity Tennis Team. After seven years at SMTF, Dick Leach moved on, eventually becoming Varsity Tennis Coach at USC in 1980. Ted Eisenhardt, who replaced Dick Leach in 1976 as head Pro, continued the Junior program very successfully. Andrew Thurm succeeded Ted and ran SMTF from 1991 to 1998, being followed by Sam Lizzul, our present Head Pro. All have been excellent teachers & leaders in every way.

Ongoing activities over the years have included such traditions as Saturday morning men's doubles. This started when the club started and was basically open men's doubles on all 6 courts, using San Marino Tennis Foundation's unique racking rules. There were up to 50 men playing tennis on a given Saturday morning, talking and drinking coffee from about 7am to 11am. Another event held 3 or 4 times per year was an inter-club day with the Valley Hunt Club, Flint Canyon, Live Oaks, Irvine Tennis Club, Balboa Bay Club, or some other club. Current activities include the Men's Master Series, East-West trophy match, Mixed Doubles on Sunday afternoon, and Ladies Costume play on Halloween.  The club also participates in San Marino's annual July 4th festivities.

The SMTF continues to give excellent lessons for every age group and ability. The Foundation has almost always managed a profit and these excess funds have been returned to the community in the form of lights and new nets for the courts at Huntington School and at San Marino High School. The Foundation has also paid for the resurfacing of the courts at these schools as well as at Carver Elementary. Because of the fine quality of our courts, the CIF finals for SM High School have been held at Lacy Park. The San Marino community, as well as the Foundation members, have found good use of the courts. Both the Chinese Club and the City Club hold their tournaments at the courts and the USTA Junior Tournament is an annual event. Also, a close working arrangement exists with the San Marino Recreation Department. We are very proud of the founders of SMTF who built these fine tennis facilities and we are very proud of our contribution to tennis in this wonderful community.

Beginning in 2005, San Marino Tennis Club was taken as the operating name instead of San Marino Tennis Foundation. Both names are now legal, but San Marino Tennis Club is the usual and preferred designation.

To view the San Marino Tennis Foundation History in pdf format, click the following ... History of the San Marino Tennis Foundation.