This is the start of the “best week of my tennis year;” which, after five consecutive years of attending, I had to miss last year due to a bad shoulder (Luxilon strings). The travel to Camp this year was “in style” thanks to Pelican Bay friend John Berry, who invited three of us from South Florida (Willy Hoffmann and Rich Tarantino) to join him on a private NetJet flight direct from Naples into the New Braunfels airport!
As usual, Steve Contardi, his family, and all the Newcombe ranch staff running the show couldn’t be any nicer. There was another ‘gift bag’ of stuff waiting for each camper: with the color theme this year being black and white, we got three Legend tee shirts, Legend polo shirt, a Legend long-sleeve DriFit shirt, and a black and white warm-up suit – all in a nice new tennis bag.
With the tough economy taking its toll on attendance, we had 58 “campers,” with 10 of them being rookies. The Naples group warmed up together before the opening afternoon of the pro introductions and the ‘rookie tryouts’ for the four teams we would all be assigned to — and we kept preaching to first-timer John Berry to “pace yourself” for the long week of tennis.
The Legends: The returning pros included: Aussies John Newcombe, Roy Emerson, Fred Stolle, Owen Davidson, Mark Woodforde, and Ross Case. Americans Marty Reissen, Dick Stockton and Charlie Pasarell.
The Legends stayed on the lower courts and evaluated the rookie campers, while the Vets went to the upper courts and played some round robin doubles, rotating partners every eight games or so. It took a little while for me to get used to the hard, fast courts; but was able to win both of my mini-matches. And then I took some time to hit one-on-one with a young ranch pro to work on my forehand volley (a real personal point of emphasis for me this week).
After the tennis, we all went to change before going to change for “Happy Hour” and opening night dinner of surf and turf (beef tenderloin and lobster tails!) But the fun was just beginning… there was a series of opening ‘remarks’ by Newcombe, Steve Contardi, a welcome to the rookies, and the High Commissioner of the Annual Boat Race (drinking contest).
The Legends had spent a couple of hours evaluating the rookies and negotiating the draft of all the teams before this dinner. They then announced the names of the 14-15 campers on each of their teams as we each came up, got a team hat and tee shirt. I was again drafted on the Wankers Team for the sixth consecutive year, with Roy Emerson and Marty Reissen as my coaches; and Rich Tarantino returned for the second time. Willy Hoffmann went to Newk’s team for his seventh consecutive time; and rookie John Berry was selected by Fred Stolle.
After dinner, I avoided the bar and went to bed to get ready for the week ahead.