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USTA Southwest Celebrates A Century of Tennis

January 4, 2012 04:54 PM
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2012 is a landmark year for USTA Southwest, as this is the year we celebrate our 100th anniversary of promoting and developing the growth of the sport of tennis in our areas of Arizona, New Mexico and El Paso County in Texas.

EugeneNeff_1914From our infancy as an organization that began at the El Paso Chamber of Commerce on a July 1912 morning, we have been dedicated to bringing this sport to all those that wish to play. We are the regional arm of the national governing body (United States Tennis Association), which itself started in 1881.   

USTA Southwest has come quite a ways since that opening day when we were just an early band of tennis players hoping to play some new players in a tournament, and maybe advance the interests of enthusiasts of the sport.

USTA Southwest has morphed into a professional organization with a paid staff and hundreds of volunteers that represent more than 14,500 members and more than 205 member organizations.

The organization manages and creates league play for adults and juniors, oversees hundreds of tournaments, works with schools and like-minded organizations… all with the aim of bringing them under the umbrella of the tennis community the USTA has strived to create.

We started then as a true community tennis association of enthusiasts when the first meeting was called to order by one Eugene E. Neff of El Paso, Texas. Mr. Neff, a former college player from Ohio and one of the true forerunners of tennis in El Paso, called this meeting in the spring of 1912. Neff put out feelers to neighboring towns to come together to start something big. No email blasts back then, Mr. Neff did it the hard way, with gold old-fashioned word of mouth and hand-written notes. 

Neff's vision came to pass as on July 3, 1912 , the first-ever meeting of the Southwestern Tennis Association was called with Neff being named the organization’s first president. James M. Lawton of Cananea, Sonora, Mexico was tabbed vice president, George Drysdale of Clifton, Arizona as the treasurer. P. R. Lynch (Pecos, Texas), Julius Staub (Albuquerque, N.M.), Paul Jette (Mescalero, N.M.) and Pendleton Fuller (Las Cruces, N.M.) were named directors. These men were the ones who got the ball rolling.

After their initial meeting that summer July day, the group adjourned to the three cement tennis courts which were then at El Paso Country Club for, what else, a two-day tennis tournament. That event was our first-ever Southwest championships!


In subsequent years, the event became an annual association event, and rotated amongst the Section’s major cities of El Paso, Phoenix, Sedona, Tucson and Albuquerque. But the event has also been held in some smaller cities during that time span as well, like Douglas, Ariz. and Bisbee, Ariz.

We started off as the Southwestern Tennis Association but later found out a similar group in Texas had already taken that name, so the Border States Tennis Association (BSTA) was formed. We remained the BSTA for the first decade and a half or so of our existence.

A 1921 fire in El Paso destroyed all of our early official records, and was a big setback. But the organization pushed on, growing by quite a few new players and members each and every year.

MargueriteChesney1In 1927, we took the "Southwest" name back, which is what we’ve been since. That same year the association was extended an invitation to become one of what was then 13 sectional associations of the United States Lawn Tennis Association (now, the USTA), which we of course accepted.

In the ensuing years, the organization has grown plenty, new faces and volunteers have taken leadership reins, and the game of course has changed and evolved tremendously. Our area is also truly blessed with natural scenic beauty and a climate that is extremely favorable for tennis (with a few slight exceptions) almost every day of the year. It's one of the joys of tennis in the Southwest. 

But regardless of what we’ve been called, our aims have always been to grow and nurture a deep appreciation and love of the sport of tennis for the people in the Southwest.

We are mindful of all those that came before us and helped lay the groundwork for what we do today, and to those that carry our voice and represent the sport now from their local communities. We are a large area, but we are a team working together to grow tennis.

Help us celebrate this entire year by letting everyone know that we are a grand old lady at 100 years strong, and absolutely help us continue to grow and spread the love of this game for the next 100 by bringing new members and volunteers into our organization.  

Read more about our USTA Southwest history HERE

Past USTA Southwest Presidents

Eugene E. Neff; J.M. Lawton Paul; Jette Dwight B. Heard; S.A. Gardanier; Hugh T. Cuthbert; Ferguson Percy; W. Barker; Hal E. Christie; P.M. Buckwalter; Norman Carmichael; E. B. Elfers; John M. Williams; K.B. Melcher; E.L. Blumenschein; Frank Fletcher; George A. Judson Sr.; Marguerite Chesney; Roy A. Stamm; E. Zaner; Lesher George; A. Judson, Jr.; Steve Vidal, Jr;. Douglas Cary; Ed Chew;

Jeff Glover (1958-1963);Walter Driver (1964-1966) Edward Edmunds (1967-1969); Gordon Jorgensen (1970-1975*: Tony Bull (1976-1979).

Dr. Lester Snyder, Jr. (1980-1982)*; Russell Ball (1983-1986); Georgian Carroll (1987-1989); Sissy B. Kelly (1990-1993); Marian Palmer (1994-1995); Christy Balsiger (1996-1997;) Jim Reffkin (1998-1999).

Sue Jollensten (2000-2001) Helen Craige (2002-2003) Tim Russell (2004-2005), Denise Ariew (2006-2007), Charlotte Johnson (2008-2009), Beverly Bourguet (2010-2011), Paul Burns (2012-2013).

*Became President of the United States Tennis Association