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August 14, 2014 01:39 PM
Brett_HallBrett Hall has learned to live with life’s unexpected bounces.

There is a good reason why Brett Hall, director of tennis at Angel Fire Resort, in Angel Fire, N.M., is so tuned into the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. He has chronic lymphocytic leukemia.  The proceeds of his Texas Shootout event, held the last weekend in July, went to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of New Mexico. The Shootout, which is Hall’s invention and is unlike any tennis tournament, attracted a record 49 players this year. Hall, 59, spends the summers in Angel Fire, where the resort has six outdoor hard courts. In mid-September he returns to Oregon, where he teaches at the Albany Tennis Club and coaches the boys’ tennis team at West Albany High School. He previously directed tennis and managed the Courthouse Tennis Center in Salem, Oregon, for 18 years. Toby Smith recently talked with Hall about the Shootout and living with leukemia.

How does the Shootout work?

It’s a round-robin team format with a match consisting of three doubles teams.  The team must win two out of three matches for a team victory.  Each individual match is the first 41 points. A scorekeeper sits on the side of each court. There are also mulligans.

Mulligans?  You mean like in golf?

Here a mulligan is an extra serve after a double fault.  Players may use up to two mulligans in one point and can purchase them for a small fee at the event.  You may buy as many mulligans as you wish.

Where did you get the idea for the tournament?

When I worked in El Paso, at the Coronado Country Club, we ran a Calcutta, which we did with a point system and play 41-point matches and did betting. We handicapped players by their NTRP level. I started the Texas Shootout at my old club in Oregon, the Courthouse Tennis Center. With the Shootout, we don’t bet. The Texas Shootout name comes my being a native of the Houston area.

Tell me about Cliff Richey’s appearance at this year’s event.

Cliff brought the tournament up to another level.  He came and gave a great speech and hung around the tournament.  Let me tell you, his presence was something. This is a guy who beat McEnroe, Connors, Ashe and Laver.  He was No.1 in the U.S. in singles in 1970 and No. 6 in the world.  He’s also a native Texan. He’s written a terrific book about his battle with depression.

You’ve had your own medical battle, haven’t you?

In October 2012, I was going in for a hip replacement.  I had to have some blood work done beforehand, and that’s when they saw my white blood cell count was abnormally high.  I was sent to an oncologist and diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia.  

How did you take this?

My life changed completely.  I went through the usual stages—shock, anger, and then acceptance.  I am a very spiritual person, in that I try to treat people the way I would want to be treated. I try to give back. To me, attitude is gratitude. It didn’t take long for me to say that I wanted to spend the rest of my life raising money to fight blood cancer.

I am guessing there are different kinds of leukemia.

Yes.   Acute lymphocytic leukemia is the more serious. Bill Walsh, the football coach passed away from that. So did Ed Bradley, who was part of the “60 Minutes” TV program. Five years ago, chemotherapy was your only chance to live a few more years. Now they’re coming up with all these different drug therapies. The research is so much better. I’ve never had to take chemo.  I have my blood count checked regularly.

What was the reaction of other people when they learned you had leukemia?

People have been so supportive of me and my disease. Back in Oregon, all the tennis pros in the Salem and Albany area got together and did a fund-raiser that we combined with the Shootout.  We did a clinic and raised $2,000 that went to the LLS.  

How’s your health?  

I feel fine. During July, I was probably on the court five to seven hours a day. Life is good.

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