USTA New England Magazine
Jan/Feb. 2007 Issue
The longest running national Father/Son tennis tournament in New England—the USTA National Father/Son Grass Court Championships—takes place every year at (fittingly) the oldest grass-court club in the United States--the Longwood Cricket Club in Chestnut Hill., Mass. But this father/son event, heading into its 86th year of play, has evolved into much more than a tournament. With its traditions and reunion-like atmosphere, the tournament brings generations of tennis families together like no other. Many great father/son teams have participated over the years, but for two of them, this tournament has become a three-generation tradition.
Peter, Rick and Dick Allen
PETER ALLEN started playing at Longwood 40 years ago with his father, Dick Allen, who introduced him to the game. For Peter, the Father/Son tournament is all about family tradition, competition and good sportsmanship. Peter recalls one of his most treasured moments, which took place at the annual Longwood Father/Son dinner, traditionally held at the end of the first day of play. The year that Chauncey Steele passed away (a legend in his own right), the Steele family set up an annual sportsmanship award. The first year that the sportsmanship award was given out at the dinner, the Steele’s chose me and my dad as the recipients,” says Peter, adding that he could not have been more thrilled to receive such an honor with his father, who died a few years ago at age 92.
Now, Peter carries on the tradition with his son, Rick, age 35, who currently resides in Colorado. Peter last played with Rick at the Longwood Father/Son tournament in 2005. At age 61 and semi-retired, Peter hopes to keep playing for as long as possible, and to keep the tradition going to maintain an “unbroken string of Allens” with the next generation. When Peter is not competing in tournaments, he is part-owner of the Westborough Tennis Club in Westborough, Mass., where he currently resides.
The Allen family may be one of the only families to someday make the Longwood Father/Son tournament a four-generation tradition. Peter’s son Rick has two young children and plans to have his son, Connor, age 3-1/2, as his teammate in the Longwood event as soon as he is able.
Rick was only 2 years old when he first saw his father and grandfather play at Longwood, and just 14 when he first teamed with his dad at the event. As a kid, he recalls watching his father and grandfather playing at Longwood. “It just drew something inside of me—creating a fire in my belly,” he says. And Rick’s memories of his grandfather are vivid. “Even now, when I’m out on the court, I can hear his voice inside my head, saying, throw your toss up higher on your serve,” Rick says. “I’ve never seen anyone more focused on tennis than my grandfather, with my father being a close second.” Even when Rick’s grandfather had to have a double knee replacement, tennis was still on his mind. Getting back to the court was a priority. Rick says that to see that level of passion for the game was truly inspirational, and is the driving force that keeps him in the game.
JERRY MORSE-KARZEN’s love for tennis began as a 5-year-old in Glencoe, Ill., when his dad, Richard Karzen, started tossing him tennis balls. As a kid, he worked as a ball boy at a nearby country club, but it wasn’t the free lunch that enticed him to work there. It was the opportunity to play tennis that kept him coming back. By age 11, he began entering—and winning—tournaments. He and his dad went on to win four national Father/Son events, winning at Longwood in 1977. Jerry says that one of his fondest memories was winning that coveted gold ball for the first time at Longwood, with his dad. And he is still in awe of the facilities and the history of Longwood. “Just walking into the club and seeing the overall look of Longwood and to be able to look over the green is so impressive,” Jerry says.
His father passed away 10 years ago, but the lessons that his dad taught Jerry have come full circle, now playing beside his son, Brett. At age 23, and 6 feet, 9 inches tall (towering 5 inches over his father), Brett is a recent graduate of Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minn., where his tennis skills made him a three-time All-American. He began playing around age 7, and continued the Karzen tradition of playing in the Father/Son Longwood tournament when he was 15.
Jerry says he and Brett were a decent team starting out, but over the years they’ve honed their skills to the point where he and Brett are a tough out for any opponent. Altogether, Jerry and Brett have won eight national Father/Son titles, the first one on clay, and they have been ranked No. 1 in the nation for the past two years. “It has been so much fun to watch Brett evolve and get better, stronger, more composed and competitive,” Jerry says. And he’s noticed that the rules have changed over the years—Brett has become more of the leader of their doubles team. But their respect for the game and for each other is evident. When asked if he competes against his son in other sports, Jerry did admit that he and Brett enjoy battling it out in table tennis. Brett currently competes in Futures tournaments, focusing more on his singles game. When he’s not playing tennis, he’s making films. In fact, he was the chief editor at his college’s TV station.
Aside from the competition, Jerry, who now lives in Willette, IL, says the Father/Son tournament at Longwood provides a venue for fathers and sons to share a common activity, which enables them to combine a love for family and a love for tennis. The tournament has also been an opportunity “to make lifelong friends, who are cut from the same stone and headed down the same tennis path,” says Jerry. “It’s all competitive, but it’s done the right way.”
Founded in 1877, the Longwood Cricket Club is the oldest grass-court club in the U.S., and it hosted the first Davis Cup tournament in 1900. It has 25 grass courts and 19 clay courts. For more information about Longwood and the USTA National Father/Son Grass Court Tournament, which takes place every July, contact:
Longwood Cricket Club
564 Hammond St.
Chestnut Hill, Mass.
© Paula Vergara 2007