For tennis fans mourning the end of this year’s Wimbledon tournament and waiting anxiously for September’s US Open, Tuesday night’s program on tennis legends at Hancock Park’s historic Los Angeles Tennis Club was perfect timing.
Author S. Mark Young spoke about his new book “Trojan Tennis,” about the legendary University of Southern California (USC) men’s team, which for many years practiced at the LA Tennis Club. Members and non-member guests were invited to hear Young speak and watch, and there was an exhibition match on the club’s historic Center Court, featuring this year’s USC Men’s Tennis Team starters Tanner Smith, Jake Devine, Riley Smith, and Jack Jaede, following the discussion.
In this first-ever book chronicling a college tennis program, Young documents the dynastic men’s tennis program at the University of Southern California, which won more national titles (21) than any university in the nation and boasts the largest number of players (eight) in the prestigious International tennis Hall of Fame. Young’s talk featured anecdotes drawn from his interviews and research about Trojan tennis legends such as Alex Olmedo, Stan Smith, Dennis Ralston, Bob Lutz, Rick Leach, and Stevie Johnson as well as legendary coaches George Toley, Dick Leach and Peter Smith. In his book, Young connects the ascendancy of the USC tennis program with this history of tennis in the Los Angeles area.
According to Young:
“Certainly the hospitable climate, the early adoption of the game before the turn of the 20th Century, the large number of students at high school and colleges who took up the sport, and the proliferation of tennis courts at private clubs and public parks where top juniors and seasoned players were groomed, created an environment in which tennis flourished. In particular, the legendary Los Angeles Tennis Club in Hancock Park and the Ojai Valley Tennis Tournament played significant roles in the development of tennis in Southern California. The LATC is an institution that has linked USC tennis with many of the greatest professional players of all time, including Pancho Segura, Bill Tilden, Budge Patty, Jack Kramer, Pancho Gonzales, Bobby Riggs, Don Budge and countless others.”
The first star player for USC was Tom Bundy, who later went on to become a finalist at the U.S. Championships (the modern-day US Open) in 1919. Bundy, who married U.S. National and Wimbledon champion May Sutton, went on to become a successful developer in Los Angeles. He is credited with developing the Miracle Mile on Wilshire Blvd. Bundy (for whom Bundy Drive in Brentwood is named) and his friend, Captain G. Allen Hancock, co-founded the Los Angeles Tennis Club in 1920 and Bundy served as president from 1920 to 1925, according to Young.
Young wrote in his book:
“The LATC, also known as the “cradle of tennis,” is considered one of the most influential tennis clubs in the nation and is hallowed ground for the stars that played there. The LATC hosted the Pacific Southwest tournament and several ties (elimination rounds) of the Dvis Cup. Over its long history, the LAYC was also home to the Southern California Tennis Association, run by tennis czar Perry T. Jone and secretary Doris Cooke, and served as the base for many of the greatest champions of the game, including Pancho Segura, Pancho Gonzales, Gussie Moran, Bill Tilden, Ellsworth Vines, Pauline Bets, Jack Kramer, Budge Patty, Gene Mako, Bobby Riggs, Alex Olmedo, Dennis ralston, Bill Johnston, and Bob Lutz among others. Later George Toley and Dick Leach coached their USC teams at the club.”
USC continued to play at LATC until the 1970s, when a new tennis facility was built on the USC campus. By then, tennis had also entered a new era of professionalism. But Tuesday evening wasn’t all about history, as players from USC’s current team treated members and guests to an exhibition match on center court.
Young holds the George Bozanic and Holman G. Hurt Chair in Sports and Entertainment Business at the Marshall School of Business, University of Southern California. He is the official historian of the USC Men’s Tennis Team, and chairs the university’s Oversight Committee on Athletic Academic Affairs, an organization that reviews and suggests policies and procedures to facilitate the academic progress of all student athletes at USC. A former Division III collegiate player player, Young also captained the tennis team at Oberlin College in Ohio in the mid-1970s.