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USPTA History Shows Growth of a Profession, the Start of an Industry


<i>USPLTA officers 1958
USPLTA officers 1958
March 2017 -- On Sept. 23, 1927, a small group of tennis professionals gathered in an upper-story room of the Spalding building in New York City. Their mission: to bridge the gap between the amateur ranks and a respectable career as tennis professionals.

When the group emerged from its first meeting, the Professional Lawn Tennis Association of the United States was born. The group sent out the following notice to all recognized tennis professionals:

“For some time there has been a very strong feeling among lawn tennis professionals that there is a need for some organization to protect and promote their interests, and to assist them in obtaining a proper and recognized status in the tennis world. A meeting was held on September 23 and it was decided to form an Association ... An initiation fee of $10 will be charged to all new members. Dues are to be $5 ­annually.

“An executive committee has been elected and a constitution adopted. It is the desire of this executive committee to have all tennis professionals of accepted standards become members of this Association. As one of these, you are cordially invited to fill out the enclosed application blank for membership.”

Little did they know their plan would materialize into today’s United States Professional Tennis Association – a worldwide organization of more than 15,000 teaching professionals dedicated to promoting the sport and raising the standards of their profession.

This year, the USPTA is celebrating its 90th anniversary, and in recognition of our rich and diverse history, this magazine will feature the leaders of the association over the next several issues. The anniversary will be officially commemorated at the 2017 USPTA World Conference in Orlando. 

USPTA Presidents
  • George Agutter (1927-1935) was a charter member and the USPLTA’s first president, serving seven terms. He was a teaching professional at West Side Tennis Club at Forest Hills in New York City. He previously worked at the Queen’s Club in London.
  • Edwin Faulkner (1936-37) was a charter member of the association and also served as president of the Middle States Division. He coached tennis at Swarthmore College in Delaware County for 41 years. He was named head coach of the Spanish Davis Cup team in 1923, and from 1924 to 1926, he coached the United States to three consecutive Davis Cup victories. 
  • Henry Geidel (1938-39) was a charter member and also served as secretary of the association. He was the tennis and squash coach for the Nassau Country Club on Long Island, where he worked for more than 32 years.
  • James Pressly (1940-41) was the fourth president of the association, and he was a club pro for Jupiter Island Club in Florida and Bedford Golf and Tennis Club in New York for more than 30 years. He was a captain in the U.S. Army during WWII. Before he was a teaching professional, Pressly earned a master’s degree in history from Columbia University. All five of his children played college tennis and two went on to earn national titles.
  • Charles Wood (1942-46) was a charter member of the PLTA and was the first amateur to turn professional.  He played in the first National Professional Tennis Championships in 1927 and won the National Professional doubles title in 1933 and 1936. He was the owner and manager of the Coral Beach Club in Palm Beach, Fla., for many years.
  • Frank Rericha (1947) served as executive secretary of the association from 1945-1946 before serving as president. He was the tennis professional for Greenwich Country Club in Greenwich, Conn., for many years and then later worked at the Wilmington Country Club. 
USPTA Timeline
  • 1927 – Professional Lawn Tennis Association of the United States was formed
  • 1957 – Association name changed to United States Professional Lawn Tennis Association
  • 1969 – First certification exams were administered
  • 1970 – Association name changed to United States Professional Tennis Association
  • 1974 – Ray Bovett, first full-time executive director
  • 1974 – First national office in Houston
  • 1975 – Bill Tym becomes second full-time executive director after the death of Bovett. USPTA has 1,000 members.
  • 1975 – National office moves with Tym to space outside of Chattanooga, Tenn.
  • 1977 – USPTA celebrates 50th anniversary and launch of ADDvantage, USPTA’s own magazine, under president Sheldon Caldwell.
  • 1978 – USPTA strikes endorsement agreement with Colony Beach & Tennis Resort near Sarasota, Fla., to move its headquarters there. Michael Fryer hired as executive director. Membership is up to 2,000.
  • 1982 – Tim Heckler becomes executive director/CEO
  • 1982 – Japan Professional Tennis Association becomes first international division
  • 1983 – USPTA moves headquarters to Saddlebrook Resort
  • 1983 – Computerization of USPTA begins
  • 1984 – Membership totals 4,000
  • 1990 – USPTA begins original free grassroots lesson program, Tennis Across America
  • 1990 – USPTA moves its headquarters back to Houston and its own building
  • 1992 – Membership grows to 10,000
  • 1993 – USPTA officially opens its Hall of Fame with induction of the late Arthur Ashe
  • 1994 – USPTA introduces Little Tennis®, a new program targeting young players from 3 to 10
  • 1995 – USPTA launches www.uspta.com
  • 1997 – USPTA offers free personal websites to every member
  • 1999 – USPTA launches Find-a-Pro service 
  • 2002 – USPTA celebrates 75th anniversary
  • 2003 – USPTA launches TV show “On Court with USPTA” that airs on the Tennis Channel
  • 2004 – USPTA introduces Player Development Program
  • 2007 – USPTA has 14,500 members
  • 2010 – USPTA China Division is formed
  • 2012 – Tim Heckler retires as CEO and John Embree assumes the reins
  • 2015 – USPTA has 15,000 members
  • 2015 – USPTA begins certifying platform tennis instructors 
  • 2016 – USPTA breaks ground on new World Headquarters in Lake Nona, Fla.
  • 2017 – USPTA relocates to Lake Nona, Fla.


 
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