By James Zug
The 33rd annual Jimmy Dunn tournament weekend at the Racquet Club of Philadelphia was its most successful ever. One hundred and fifty-seven people came to South Sixteenth Street to play a total of 225 matches over the course of four very full days (and nights).
The highlight of the weekend was the Edward M. Noll Testimonial Dinner at the Saturday evening black-tie dinner-dance. Two hundred and thirty-five people attended, making it one of the largest events in RCOP history and recalling some of the legendary testimonial dinners of the past. Guests included Ed’s two sons Mike and Jimmy and daughter Michele; his wife Helene, her parents and brother; some of his six grandchildren; as well as many of the longtime members of the club.
Ed Noll started at the club as a junior apprentice to Jimmy Dunn in 1964 while a freshman at Roman Catholic high school (his mother used to sew the tennis balls for the club). He left in 1973 to work at the Racquet & Tennis Club in New York, as well as at Philadelphia Cricket and Philadelphia Country clubs. He returned to RCOP in 1980, succeeded as head professional when Dunn stepped down in the mid-eighties and in 1998 left the pro shop to become the manager of the club. Noll retired this summer, forty-nine years after first coming to the club.
As a player, Noll won the U.S. Professionals in 1974 and the U.S. Open doubles in 1972 (with Sam Howe) in five-set final. He also lost to Gene Scott in the 1974 U.S. Open final, after being up 4-2 in the fifth set, 40-0 and serving with a chase of two yards. In 2000 he was inducted into the International Court Tennis Hall of Fame.
The Testimonial featured a dozen speakers and nine standing ovations. Funny, warm and memorable messages came from current and former presidents of the club and other RCOP leaders, from RCOP staff, from other clubs and from former fourth-floor colleagues of Noll’s like John Cashman and Jimmy Burke. Perhaps the most touching came from his son Mike, who worked as a pro at RCOP from 1989 to 2001. “Every pro starts out wanting to become a world champion,” Mike said. “Dad, you are my world champion.”
On the fourth floor matches ran from Thursday morning through Sunday evening. The last match on the first day went on court at 1am Friday morning and finished at half past two; the first match on Sunday morning went on at 7am. In the open squash singles, young Alex Domenick beat Jamie McCauley in the open finals; in the doubles, John White & Tom Harrity overcame Domenick & James Asher in four games. In the Jock Soutar racquets, Jeff Yager won the singles while Dick Tanfield & Jim Zug took the doubles.
In the tennis, there were six divisions. By far the most intriguing was the open doubles. Last year the finals, between Rob Whitehouse & Gabe Kinzler and Barney Tanfield & Lex Miron, came down to 5-all in the third and final set and went to 40-all, no-ad. After that match, the RCOP decided that the new tradition of playing out the deuce when a final set goes to 5-all.
Ironically, this affected the open finals. Whitehouse & Rich Smith faced Tanfield & Miron. Halfway through the match, it looked like the rule change would never possibly matter. Tanfield & Miron went up 6-1 and 2-0 in the second set. The tide turned and Whitehouse & Smith climbed back into the match. Inevitably it went to an eleventh game in the last set. Both teams squandered match points—Whitehouse & Smith had six, Tanfield & Miron had three in the final game—and the capacity crowd was on tenterhooks until a Whitehouse groundstroke couldn’t be dug out of the corner.
Ryan Carey & Kris Motz took the A division; Gary Swantner & Jim Zug won the Bs; Richard Gilder & Jake McCray won the Cs; Richard Griffith & Baird Standish won the Ds; and A. McMillan and Jennifer Metzler won the Es.