The United States Professional Tennis Association honored those who stand out and go above and beyond in all aspects of the tennis industry, from tennis coaches to players to volunteers during its annual national awards breakfast today at the USPTA World Conference on Tennis. USPTA, the world's oldest and largest association of tennis-teaching professionals, is hosting its annual World Conference Sept. 19-24 at Saddlebrook Resort in Wesley Chapel, Fla.
Ben Press of Coronado, Calif., was honored with the USPTA's Presidential Award. Press has been teaching tennis for more than 65 years and his impact on tennis as a teacher and through community work is immeasurable.
Steve Wilkinson of St. Peter, Minn., was also recognized with the USPTA's Presidential Award. Wilkinson has been a member of the association for nearly 40 years, and his impact and influence as a tennis teacher is tremendous.
Feisal Hassan of Midlothian, Va., received the association's top annual member award, the Alex Gordon Award for the USPTA Professional of the Year. Hassan has been involved in tennis and has been a USPTA member for more than 20 years.
Michael Andrews of Fort Wayne, Ind., is the recipient of the USTA/USPTA Community Service Award. He has been a USPTA member for more than 15 years, and has continued to give to his community through tennis. He is very active in the tennis industry and serves on several committees for charity work in the Fort Wayne area. He is currently the managing professional at Wildwood Racquet Club in Fort Wayne, Ind.
Matthew Boughton of Eau Claire, Wis., is the director of tennis and a tennis professional at the Eau Claire YMCA, and had a significant impact on the growth of the junior tennis program, membership and revenue. During his four years at the YMCA, Boughton has managed to help increase membership revenue by 20 percent and lesson revenue is up 39 percent. His work with the Eau Claire tennis community and YMCA is what earned him the USPTA Industry Excellence Award, recognizing business acumen and a charitable attitude. The award is sponsored by the Tennis Industry Association and supported by Tennis Tutor ball machines.
The USPTA Star, recognizing teaching professionals who make an indelible mark on their communities through the sport of tennis, was awarded to Philip "Fitz" Paccione of Portland, Ore. Paccione has made significant contributions to tennis in Portland through his work with Portland After-School Tennis & Education. The program works to develop young tennis athletes from poor families into successful tennis players who graduate from high school.
Fernando Velasco of Austin, Texas, received the Lessons for Life Individual Award for his numerous charity events at the Circle C Tennis Club in Austin, Texas, including Toys for Blue Santa and First Volley Clinic.
Bill Mecca of Garden City, N.Y., received the Tennis Across America Individual Award for his efforts in hosting TennisFest 2011, a free event for more than 1,500 people featuring free tennis lessons, exercise and more.
Ira Peskowitz of West Palm Beach, Fla., received the USPTA Diversity Award for his work with the Kids and Police Tennis Association, a program that allows kids to play tennis and positively interact with police officers.
Raul Saad of Shreveport, La., received the Manager of the Year Award - Small Facility. Saad is the general manager of Pierremont Oaks Tennis Club in Shreveport, La.
Derrick Barnett of Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., received the Manager of the Year Award - Large Facility. Barnett is the general manager of BallenIsles Country Club in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.
Other honorees are:
Kendall Brooks, Austin, Texas - Touring Coach of the Year
Mike Gennette, Newbury Park, Calif. - College Coach of the Year
Peter Smith, Rossmoor, Calif. - College Coach of the Year
Jackie Mueller Egelhoff, Mequon, Wis. - High School Coach of the Year
Ben Rakusin, Fort Lauderdale, Fla. - George Bacso Tester of the Year
The following have been named Player of the Year in their respective divisions:
Tony Larson, Minneapolis, Minn. - Men's Open
Kamil Kuchta, Fort Lauderdale, Fla. - Men's 35-and-over
Vincent Horcasitas, East Hampton, N.Y. - Men's 45-and-over
Kimm Ketelsen, Tyler, Texas - Men's 55-and-over
Gewan Maharaj, Tampa, Fla. - Men's 55-and-over
Amy Alcini, Malibu, Calif. - Women's Open
Robin Keener, Melbourne, Fla. - Women's 35-and-over
Kathy Vick, Lubbock, Texas - Women's 45-and-over
Binki Thalheimer, Prescott, Ariz. - Women's 55-and-over
USPTA divisions receiving awards are:
USPTA Texas Division - Large Division of the Year
USPTA Southwest Division - Small Division of the Year
USPTA Southern Division - Newsletter of the Year
The USPTA National Awards program is conducted annually. Nominations are submitted by the 17 divisions and by individuals. Recipients in each awards category are decided by the USPTA's awards committee. Biographies of the award recipients follow.
USPTA award recipient biographies -
Ben Press, Coronado, Calif. - Presidential Award
Ben Press is a USPTA Master Professional who has been teaching tennis for more than 65 years. He began as a player, specifically an All American at UCLA. He played against some of the greats including Bill Tilden, Pancho Gonzales, Bobby Riggs, and Tony Trabert, to name a few.
His contributions to tennis are immeasurable. As a coach, he coached San Diego's only two Wimbledon champions, Maureen Connolly (Brinker), the first woman to win the Grand Slam, and Karen Hantz (Susman), winner of three Wimbledon titles, one singles and two doubles with Billie Jean King. He was also responsible for coaching Brian Teacher to an Australian Open singles title.
Press was one of the founders of World TeamTennis. He invented the Scepter Racquet (the first of all graphite racquets in the marketplace). Press has also been very involved with the USPTA. He has served as the USPTA San Diego Division president and vice president and on several USPTA committees, including awards, public relations and testing. He is also on the board of the Southern California Tennis Association and the San Diego District Tennis Association and current president of The Greater San Diego City Tennis Council.
His dedication to community work and impact on tennis has been recognized by many. In fact, in mid-August American Express and USTA honored Ben Press by pledging one of four $50,000 "Fresh Courts" grants to renovate La Mesa's La Mesita Park Tennis Facility. He was honored with the USTA/USPTA Community Service Award in 2005. He was also in the first class inducted into the San Diego Tennis Hall of Fame, and was recently inducted into the Southern California Senior Tennis Hall of Fame.
Steve Wilkinson, St. Peter, Minn., Presidential Award
Steve Wilkinson, who is a USPTA P-1, has been a member of the association for nearly 40 years. He played tennis for Iowa University before he began his teaching career. He has also been ranked No. 1 nationally in men's 45s, 50s, 55s, and 60s.
Wilkinson's impact and influence as a tennis teacher is tremendous. He has a strong commitment to building strong tennis players and stronger human beings and in the process has touched and changed the lives of thousands of people. As head coach of Gustavus Adolphus College, he has built a dynasty for 40 years with multiple national championships, numerous singles and doubles championships and more than 35 conference titles. He founded the Tennis and Life clinics/camps more than 25 years ago and has dedicated his time and effort to improving the tennis performance of youth and adults.
His involvement with the USPTA includes serving as regional vice president and division president and serving on the tournament committee. Wilkinson has also served as a USTA clinician for high school coaches clinics, Tennis Festival of the North and Tennis and Life clinics.
Wilkinson has done much to promote tennis and sportsmanship, and as a result of all of his efforts and dedication, he has been inducted into the hall of fame of three different USTA sections and the Intercollegiate Tennis Association Hall of Fame, and was the recipient of the tennis hall of fame education merit award.
Feisal Hassan, Midlothian, Va. - Alex Gordon Award for the USPTA Professional of the Year
Feisal Hassan has been involved in tennis and has been a USPTA member for more than 20 years. Hassan, who is also a USPTA Master Professional, grew up playing junior tennis at the local and national level in Zimbabwe, Africa, before moving to the United States. After playing collegiate tennis for four years at Virginia Commonwealth University and earning a degree in marketing, Hassan began his tennis-teaching career.
He has been very committed to the USPTA. He is currently a tester and on the national education and diversity committees. He has served as the director of testing/certification and education for Middle States. In addition, he has also been highly involved with the USTA as a High Performance Coach and a national trainer for QuickStart and Recreation Coaches. He has been a coach for USTA competitive training centers and USTA Intersectional and Zonal Teams. Hassan has also been a USPTA speaker at both divisional conventions and the World Conference, as well as a USTA speaker and trainer at both regional and national USTA workshops.
In addition, he has coached at the national/international level for the country of Zimbabwe. His roles included director of coaches' education for Tennis Zimbabwe, national coach of the Junior Davis Cup for Zimbabwe and the coach of Zimbabwe 18's national team.
Hassan has also made giving back to the community a priority. He and his family are heavily involved with the developmentally challenged population and community. His efforts include volunteer work with Trinity Lutheran Church, Ministry to the Developmentally Challenged Adults (Special Needs Ministry), Nathaniel's Hope Buddy Break (a free kids/respite program where kids with special needs make new friends and get to try new activities) and serving as a seasonal tennis coach for Special Olympics.
Hassan authored the book, "How to Handle Difficult Players and Conditions" and has also published more than 80 articles in international, national, division and local publications.
He is currently on the HEAD/Penn National Advisory Board and Speaker's Bureau, and on the Tennis Industry Association's National Cardio Tennis Speakers Team. Previous accolades include the USPTA Industry Excellence Award in 1999, the Tennis Industry's 40 Under 40 in 2000, five-time Division Tester of the Year, 10-time USPTA Division/State Pro of the Year, and seven-time national Top-10 point holder in the USPTA's Career Development Program.
Matthew Boughton, Eau Claire, Wis. - USPTA Industry Excellence Award
Matthew Boughton, who is the director of tennis and a tennis professional at the Eau Claire YMCA, has had a tremendous impact on the growth of the junior tennis program, membership and revenue. In 2011 alone, after taking over the junior team tennis, participation has increased by 40 percent to more than 140 kids and has tripled the number of junior events in the city for the summer. In addition, he has created scholarships so that everyone has the opportunity to join regardless of income. Under Boughton's leadership, the YMCA is working on a collaboration with the LIVESTRONG foundation to offer cancer survivors free tennis programming and training to help them with their physical fitness. During his four years at the YMCA, Boughton has managed to help increase membership revenue by 20 percent and lesson revenue is up 39 percent. He has encouraged the use of promotions through social media to help increase pro shop revenue to more than 35 percent. The total facility revenue has increased by 26 percent since Boughton started.
Philip "Fitz" Paccione, Portland, Ore. - USPTA Star Award
Fitz Paccione, who is the tennis director of Portland After-School Tennis & Education (PAST&E Inc.), and the NFL Category Information Analyst for Nike, Inc., has made significant contributions to tennis in Portland. The program works to develop young tennis athletes from poor families into successful tennis players who graduate from high school. Paccione, who has worked in practically every capacity at PAST & E Inc., from volunteer instructor to tennis director, has led the organization to the No. 1 national ranking for tennis chapter in development. He has helped to secure grants from USTA, Nike, Portland Parks & Rec., and other national organizations. His current goals for the organization are to increase the annual budget of PAST & E Inc. to more than $300,000 and to increase the retention rate to 100 percent, and have all students graduate from high school as varsity tennis athletes.
Michael Andrews, Fort Wayne, Ind. - USTA/USPTA Community Service Award
Mike Andrews has been a USPTA member for more than 15 years, and has continued to give to his community through tennis. He is very active in the tennis industry and is a former USPTA Midwest Division president, as well as a current USTA Northern Indiana Junior Davis Cup Coach, Recreation Coach Workshop Clinician, QuickStart Tennis Specialist, and USTA Schools Clinician. In addition, Andrews serves on several committees for charity work in the Fort Wayne area, including The Vera Bradley Classic fundraiser for breast cancer research, The Tennis Ball fundraiser for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, and Parkview Foundation - Tennis Slam for the Ronald McDonald Family Room at Parkview Hospital. Andrews has also worked Arthur Ashe Kids Day at the U.S. Open in New York. He was named 1998 USPTA Indiana Professional of the Year. Originally from Michigan's Upper Peninsula, Andrews holds a degree in Recreation Management from Lake Superior State University where he played college tennis. He is currently the managing professional at Wildwood Racquet Club in Fort Wayne, Ind.
Fernando Velasco, Austin, Texas - Lessons for Life Individual Award
Fernando Velasco has hosted numerous charity events at the Circle C Tennis Club in Austin, Texas. The goal of the events is to introduce the game of tennis to adults and juniors who may feel that because of their disabilities or finances, they cannot play tennis. The events have included First Volley Clinic (free clinic for amputees and those with physical challenges), Toys for Blue Santa (mixer and toy donation with the toys donated to Blue and Brown Santa programs in Austin), Dennis Ralston Fundraiser (tennis fundraiser with proceeds benefiting Dennis Ralston, whose leg was amputated after an infection from ankle surgery, complimentary tennis clinics (for both juniors and adults), cardio tennis for local elementary schools, and wheelchair workshops. Velasco is the owner, general manager and director of tennis at Circle C Tennis Club.
Bill Mecca, Garden City, N.Y. - Tennis Across America Individual Award
Bill Mecca, along with the Eastern Division, hosted TennisFest 2011, a free event for more than 1,500 attendees featuring free tennis lessons, exercise and other instruction. The event was made possible through volunteer efforts, the work of partners including USTA national and Eastern Section, and numerous sponsors. The event, which was held at Saw Mill Tennis Club, was a mix of tennis clinic, cardio tennis, pilates, competitions and a concert for the kids. While the event was for all age groups, there was an emphasis on 10 and under tennis. Boys and Girls Clubs were invited to participate and buses were provided for kids to attend the event from Brooklyn and Harlem.
Ira Peskowitz, West Palm Beach, Fla. - USPTA Diversity Award
Ira Peskowitz is the creator/founder and director of the Kids and Police Tennis Association (KAPTA), Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office Police Athletic League's nonprofit organization. The program, which uses the 10 and under tennis QuickStart Format of play, is comprised of 300 kids between the ages of 4 and 16. The goal of the program is to give kids an activity to help them to look outside their community and see something other than crime (specifically those in high crime, multi-ethnic and low- income neighborhoods), to positively interact with law enforcement and to learn a sport that they would never have been exposed to. The motto is "Our courts or criminal courts? You choose." His involvement led him to become USPTA-certified. Peskowitz is also a deputy sheriff at the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office.
Raul Saad, Shreveport, La. - Facility Manager of the Year - Small Facility
Raul Saad is the general manager of Pierremont Oaks Tennis Club in Shreveport, La. The club, which has a membership of more than 500 families, has 21 tennis courts and 17 QuickStart courts, a comprehensive fitness center and dining areas. It is one of the biggest clubs in the region. When Saad took over, the organization was facing significant turmoil and had lost more than 200 memberships. He was able to turn things around by implementing a new schedule of tennis programs, corporate culture development training and a clearly defined mission statement. The club does require all tennis-teaching staff to be USPTA-certified, and to upgrade to P-1 within two years of employment. Staff continuing education and professional development are cornerstones of Saad's management philosophy. In addition to running Little Tennis, Tennis Across America and other industry programs, the club hosts a blood bank, free clinic with racquets, and an event to benefit Saint Jude Hospital.
Derrick Barnett, Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. - Facility Manager of the Year - Large Facility
Derrick Barnett is the general manager of BallenIsles Country Club in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. He oversaw the planning, design and completion of a 72,000-square-foot sports complex with extensive tennis and fitness facilities. He also approved additional special event funds targeted to create excitement and promote the sport of tennis, which has led to several exhibition matches with current and former tour players. The club, which has more than 1,400 members, a 72,000-square-foot clubhouse, 22 tennis courts, pro shop, pilates, aerobics and spinning studio, and physical therapy suite, requires all tennis-teaching professionals to be USPTA certified. All tennis professionals are encouraged to participate in local workshops, maintain membership and attend conventions, all of which the club supports financially. The club also believes in giving back to the community by donating courts for at least six charity tournaments a year and by supporting various outreach programs, including free clinics through Tennis Across America and First Serve.
Jackie Mueller Egelhoff, Mequon, Wis. - High School Coach of the Year The Homestead High School girls' team went undefeated while the boys' team went 20-2, and both teams were crowned conference and sectional champions, under coach Jackie Mueller Egelhoff. In addition, the girls finished in first place and the boys finished in second place at the state tournament. Egelhoff is also the manager/head tennis professional at The River Tennis Club and the co-director and head tennis professional for Wisconsin Advantage Kids/Adults Special Needs Tennis.
Mike Gennette, Newbury Park, Calif. - Co-College Coach of the Year
As head men's tennis coach at California Lutheran University, Mike Gennette led his team to an impressive 21-3 record for the 2010-2011 season overall. The team won its first 19 matches (a school record). The team finished No. 3 regionally and No. 7 nationally. Two of his players were named All-Americans.
Peter Smith, Rossmoor, Calif. - Co-College Coach of the Year
As the head's men tennis coach at the University of Southern California, Peter Smith led the men's tennis team to a remarkable 27-2 record overall for the 2011 season, including the first season the team has gone undefeated in the Pac 10 league play since 1987. In addition to the impressive record, the team won the NCAA men's championship (for the third year in a row), the NCAA men's single championship, and won both the Pac 10 conference singles and doubles championship.
Kendall Brooks, Austin, Texas - Touring Coach of the Year
Kendall Brooks is currently the director of junior development, director of women's programming, junior team tennis coordinator and academy coach at Austin Tennis Academy in Austin, Texas. Brooks has been working with Molly Fisher, who is ranked No. 348 by the USTA nationally in girls 14s for two years, and with Meghan O'Malley, who is ranked No. 591 by the USTA nationally in girls 14s, for four years. O'Malley has a record of 32-34, including an upset of the No. 9 seed at the Texas sectionals, while Fisher has a record of 34-20, including an upset of the No. 3 seed at the Texas sectionals, and a 5th place finish at the Texas Sectionals, under Brooks this year. Brooks has also worked with Brooke Hughes, Sydney Young, Meredith Parks and Abigail Chin.
Ben Rakusin, Fort Lauderdale, Fla. - Tester of the Year
Ben Rakusin, a USPTA Professional 1, is a tennis professional at the Country Club of Coral Springs. He has been a tester for the Florida Division for 19 years and has tested 69 people in the past year. He makes it a priority to maintain regular communication among the team of testers and with the World Headquarters, and values and incorporates all feedback (positive or negative) from applicants. He is committed to make every applicant's experience the best possible first impression of the USPTA.
Tony Larson, Minneapolis, Minn. - Men's Open Player of the Year
Tony Larson was the men's open singles winner at the 2010 Hard Court Championships. He was the USPTA's No. 3-ranked player in men's open singles and No. 2-ranked player in men's open doubles in 2010. Larson is a tennis professional at Moore Lake Lifetime Fitness in Brooklyn Park, Minn.
Kamil Kuchta, Fort Lauderdale, Fla. - Men's 35-and-over Player of the Year
Kamil Kuchta was the champion of the men's 40 singles at the 2011 USPTA Clay Court Championships and the 2010 International Championships. He was the USPTA's No.1-ranked player in men's 40 singles and doubles in 2010. He is the director of tennis at Wycliffe Country Club in Wellington, Fla.
Vincent Horcasitas, East Hampton, N.Y. - Men's 45-and-over Player of the Year
Vincent Horcasitas was the winner of the men's 45 singles at the Hard Court Championships in 2010 and was a semifinalist in the men's 45 singles and doubles at the 2010 USPTA International Championships. He was USPTA's No. 1-ranked player in men's 45 singles in 2010.
Kimm Ketelsen, Tyler, Texas - Men's 55-and-over Player of the Year
Kimm Ketelsen was the winner of the men's 60 singles at the 2010 USPTA International Championships and the men's 55 singles at the 2010 USPTA Hard Court Championships. He was the USPTA's No. 1-ranked player in men's 60 singles and co-No.-3 ranked player in men's 55 singles in 2010. Ketelsen is the men's assistant tennis coach and chair of the professional tennis management program at Tyler Junior College.
Gewan Maharaj, Tampa, Fla. - Men's 55-and-over Player of the Year
Gewan Maharaj was the winner of the men's 55 singles at the 2010 USPTA Clay Court Championships. He was the USPTA's co-No. 3-ranked player in men's 55 singles in 2010. Maharaj is the director of tennis at the Tampa Yacht and Country Club.
Amy Alcini, Malibu, Calif. - Women's Open Player of the Year
Amy Alcini was the winner of women's open doubles at the 2010 USPTA International Championships. She also won the women's open doubles title at the USTA Open National and the women's 40 doubles title at the USTA National Hard Courts. She was the USPTA's co-No. 3-ranked player in women's open doubles in 2010.
Robin Keener, Melbourne, Fla. - Women's 35-and-over Player of the Year
Robin Keener was the winner of the women's 35 singles at the 2011 USPTA Clay Court Championships, a finalist in women's open singles and runner-up in women's open doubles in the 2010 USPTA International Championships. She has been USPTA's No.1-ranked player in women's 35 singles since 2007. Keener is the director of tennis at the Swiss Inn Tennis Center in Melbourne, Fla.
Kathy Vick, Lubbock, Texas - Women's 45-and-over Player of the Year
Kathy Vick was the winner of the women's 50 singles, 50 doubles and 45 doubles at the USTA's Bocage Senior Invitational and a finalist in women's 50 doubles at the USTA National Women's 40 & 50 Indoor Championship. She was USPTA's No. 10-ranked player in women's open singles in 2010. Vick is the head tennis professional at Hillcrest Golf & Country Club in Lubbock, Texas.
Binki Thalheimer, Prescott, Ariz. - Women's 55-and-over Player of the Year
Binki Thalheimer was the champion of the women's 60 singles at the 2010 USPTA International Championships. She was USPTA's No.1-ranked player in women's 60 singles in 2010. She was also the mixed 55 doubles champion and women's 45 doubles finalist at the USTA's Mile High Open. She was named the 2010 Southwest Women's Senior Player of the Year. Thalheimer was head tennis pro at Prescott Racquet Club and is currently a title officer at Yavapai Title Agency in Prescott, Ariz.