Why I go to Newk’s

Seven years ago when I turned 60, my cousin Joel gave me the greatest birthday present you could imagine: my first of

Happy Hour
my seven trips to the annual Fantasy Tennis Camp at John Newcombe’s ranch in Texas. I was both reluctant and thrilled to accept such a generous offer; but I did and went there with the goal of learning tennis from some of the game’s greatest players. Now, it is different.

Now, most all of the veteran campers (and by ‘veteran’ I mean guys who have been going for five, ten, fifteen, and twenty years), make this annual pilgrimage to New Braunfels, Texas as much to BE WITH EACH OTHER as anything else. For example, there was one ‘mate’ there who…

• Has two horrible knees and could hardly walk, but played and received a special award for his effort,
• One who had such a bad knee before he came, he could not play; but came anyway,
• One who lost his young wife just the month before; but came to be with his friends,
• One who I know cannot really “afford” the cost; but finds the money,
• One who is 84 and has been coming every year since the beginning.

We all “come from a different place,” but end up in the same place every year. My lady friends may not fully comprehend it; but there really is something to this “male bonding thing.” You build relationships with guys from around the world that get renewed every year.

To show the balance, my three best highlights from this year’s camp are:

1) Finally learning from watching Woody hit and Emmo preaching at me to take a shorter backswing on my return of serve.

2) Finishing up my singles match early on Wednesday and having Emmo pat the empty chair next to him on the adjacent court, where he was on-court coaching a Wanker doubles match. And to sit there with 28-time Grand Slam Champion Roy Emerson and “sit at the foot of the Master” to chat about every point being played and what the players should be doing better.

3) And the last morning, walking back from the indoor practice courts where I went to say goodbye to Steve Contardi, many of the Legends, and my mates … thinking what a really great week it had been for me.

In the book “Zorba The Greek,” Zorba walks down the street and stops to talk with an old man, who is planting a tree.
Zorba asks, “Old man, why are YOU planting a tree?”
The old man replies, “Zorba, I live life like I am going to live forever.”
Zorba responds, “Old man, you are a fool. I live life like I am going to die tomorrow.”

At age 67, I am not an overly wealthy man; but DeDe and I know what an important week of the year it is for me (and was especially in 2007 following my prostate cancer surgery); so we are sure to make the time and money available for this special annual pilgrimage.

After returning from camp, I spoke with a friend in his 60’s who said, “I would love to go some year, but I am just too busy now.”

“Too busy” to live your life to the fullest?

10 thoughts on “Why I go to Newk’s

  1. Good on ya, Mate! As good a job as you did explaining it, George, I don’t know whether, in the end, it’s quite possible to do it justice in words. The week was a hell of a good one.

  2. George, I am going to take your post here and frame it. Yes, yes, YES, you have captured the very essence of what tennis fantasies camp is all about. You get it. You understand. This past year was my 17th trip out of 18 years. I only missed once, in 2000, when I had work conflicts. I was absolutely and totally miserable that year. Nobody understood why, not my work partners, not my spouse, not anyone. I vowed never to miss camp again unless I am dead or, quite literally, just physically unable to travel. When fellow camper Mike Lawhon (also a Wanker) was alive — who had been there from the beginning and liked to tell how he actually gave Steve Contardi the idea to start this great event — we used to sit in front of his hacienda at room 501 under the “Margaritaville” sign and relax at the end of each day, he with a glass of single malt scotch and me with a glass of fine anejo tequila. We would talk about all manner of things and invite anyone and everyone passing by to pull up a chair, have a drink, and come join us. Few, if anybody, ever refused. Mike would always say that he started coming to tennis fantasies camp because of the Legends, but he continued to attend every year because of he fellow campers. I recall vividly how Mike said that to me the last time that I ever saw him — at the end of camp in 2003. Mike died in April 2004. Yes, it IS about the friendship. It IS about the male bonding. Dare I say, it IS about the mutual respect and feelings that all of the campers share for each other, and by the term “campers” I mean to include both the guys who pay to be there and the Legends as well, who are at bottom just a bunch of regular guys like we all are. George, you are right. Let’s all do all that we can to keep this institution going as long as we can. I cannot wait for next year.

  3. Pretty much sums it up for me….and now I don’t have to figure out how to articulate it myself. Nicely done, George! Cheers to you all.

  4. Very well said, George! It’s crossed my mind to try a tennis camp – my primary goal is to work on my game, and to have a great time with others who enjoy tennis – the bonding with tennis friends is important, too, as you have testified.

    Nick – as they said in an old TV commercial, “Try it. You’ll like it!” geo

  5. I’m with you guys. The comraderie, competition, and friendships just don’t get
    any better than those at Tennis Fantasy Week.
    As for me, I’m already looking forward to the same time next year!

  6. well said
    great tennis during the day and a cold beer with good friends at night
    it doesnt get any better than that !!!

  7. If I didn’t beleive this was all true, why keep coming for 19 years. Only 49 more weeks to go until we meet again! Good on ya mate!

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