Phil Shannon, a Yorkshireman, found himself a court tennis pro at Prested Hall from June 2002 to June 2005. A month later he came to Prince’s Court in Washington and worked there as assistant professional until his official retirement on 2 March 2012. Phil is moving on to the mortgage business.
A much beloved figure, Phil cooked up feasts, cajoled league play and generally made court tennis seem the most exciting thing in the world.
His emailed invitation to the 2010 Prince’s Court league was typical. He promised: “BBQ’s, curry cook offs, theme evenings like Croatia night, classical music jammin sessions, dance parties, a Blue Angels display above the hazard penthouse, water skiing lessons along the main wall, and so on. If you haven’t made it recently now is the time to make the commitment. It’s not just tennis, it’s backgammon and chess. And royal golf with royal nerf. Not just small talk, but major philosophical discussions like “Why am I me” and “Is this a question” and “Is there such a thing as a born again atheist”Life is meant for living and there’s a whole lot of living going on here so I’ll see you tomorrow and the next, and the next ….”
Here are some memories from Prince’s Court members of Phil.
Sometime late in the year 2000 just before 9 o’clock in the evening, Philip Michael Shannon charmed his way past the female police officer at Hampton Court Palace’s massive front gate. He was determined to see what real tennis was all about. One hundred yards later “Mouth on a Stick” (as his friends at the time called him) sneaked past a second security check-point and looked up at the court’s stadium-like floodlights as he moved silently between the shadows down Tennis Court Lane and into the hall next to the club itself. From my seat in the dedans, I marked the end of a match between two esteemed members of the Royal Tennis Club. At the RTC, walking behind the side galleries while play is in progress is the height of bad manners. Some lout, possibly a convicted felon, but definitely from “up north,” was crashing his way towards the club rooms where he would almost certainly receive a horrific “bollocking” from Hampton Court’s head professional Chris Ronaldson. Northerner or not, I had no intention of letting things get quite that out of hand so I went to meet the intruder before my father did.
Meanwhile the Ninja-like Philip continued stealthily down the corridor. The two southern twits on the elongated squash court appeared to be hitting a baseball around with broken snow-shoes while banging on about love and hazard chastity. Not at all what he’d been expecting, but then again he’d grown up a real Englishman from Yorkshire. These Londoners could well be playing polo for all he knew.
At the door to the dedans we met—southern poof and northern monkey. I was terrified I was about to be stabbed; Phil contemplated his imminent deportation to Australia.
That night was not only the beginning of Phil’s love affair with court tennis but also the start of a wonderful bro-mance: we’ve been inseparable ever since.
When Ivan was hired, I was told he had a unique ability to find “apprentices” at little or no cost to come and help out. When budgets were even tighter, that seemed like a pretty good plan. Several lads came through for varying periods of time, and they were generally in their teens or early 20s. That made it slightly surprising when Phil Shannon, who is clearly a good deal older than the others, took his place in the parade of more-or-less free help. He stayed much longer than the others and did far more. He also seemed to enjoy it. After what I am sure was much planning (all of which occurred behind my back), Ivan approached me about the prospect of Phil becoming a full-time assistant professional. Budgets were tight but I relented. I told Phil of the decision at a party in front of quite a lot of people. I guess he was happy because he kissed me. I still rub my face with a loofah mitt twice a day to make it go away, but Phil’s tenure made it all worthwhile.
On court, Phil has the ability to hit what is affectionately known by several of us as a “Shanny.” That is a shot which lacks all probability of success, but invariably produces a very good result. Examples of a “Shanny” include a frame shot to chase better than a half, or a game-ball shank that hits the bandeau and bounces into the dedans. Those of us who play with Phil on a regular basis are well aware of his ability to hit such shots on a regular and routine basis. We marvel at these shots, and can only shake our heads ruefully upon seeing them. This is not to suggest that Phil lacks the ability to play a proper game of court tennis, rather Phil seems to be the beneficiary of plenty of fortunate shots. Best of luck to fill in his future endeavors, and I look forward to seeing him on the court as a member.
It is certain that he revived and led the Prince’s Court league with rooftop barbequeing, left-handed play, and British witticisms and vernacular. When it came to having a good time with court tennis, Phil always led by example. He also improved his game a lot during his tenure at Prince’s Court, successfully transferring his footwork skills from football to the game of kings. He will be missed, and his interpersonal skills and enthusiasm will surely stand him in good stead in his future profession.
There is no ‘I’ in team and there is no ‘I ‘ in loser either. These, of course, are cliches that we all have heard many times. One can argue that court tennis is an individual sport and that would be true as you take the court to face your singles’ opponent ( times 2 for doubles). What I’m talking about here is the wonderful job that Ivan Ronaldson and Phil Shannon have done running Prince’s Court. Totally dedicated to Prince’s Court and tennis in general, they have created an atmosphere second to none in the court tennis world. Ivan and Phil, having quite different personalities, have made Prince’s Court the most cordial court in the world. Ivan, with his quiet efficiency (highest number of recorded matches in the USA) and Phil, with his outgoing own self’ make everyone feel welcome. From the absolute beginner to the World Champ (Mr Fahey has been to PC twice!), everyone is ‘greeted and treated’ with respect and made to feel welcome. Over the years, so many people have remarked about the friendly atmosphere at Prince’s Court. Phil’s presence on a daily basis will be sorely missed, but he is remaining in the area and we will see him constantly. Keep up the good work, Ivan, and all the best, Phil.