The Woody is a celebration of what is best about tennis. Over the last two decades, tennis and The Woody have seen some significant changes -- none greater than the transition from wood to graphite racquets during the late 1970's and early 1980's. Throughout the approximately 10-year transition, wood racquets remained in regular use at all levels of play until finally ending production of the Jack Kramer Mid Woody in 1983.
In those early amateur days of wood racquets, there was no greater dream than to play Davis Cup and wear those awesome blue/white/red sweats. We rooted for our hero's like Stan Smith, Arthur Ashe, Bob Lutz. We watched,with jealous admiration, the absolute athletic mastery of the greats like John McEnroe and Bjorn Borg (our contemporaries.)
The space age was still a race back then and the materials engineers looked upon sports as fresh territory. New materials applications from companies like Wilson, Prince, and Head all began offering tennis racquets made from non-wood materials, like aluminum, steel, fiberglass and graphite. But once they got graphite right: game, set and match. Wood just couldn't handle the forces generated by the new materials (or the new athletes, but that's another story).
Out with old and into The Woody. The Woody Tennis Championships® held it's first tournament in 1992 on one hard court in Orange County, California. Jim Settles and Granville Swope, both products of wood, and both growing up playing through the USTA So. Cal Juniors tennis programs were the tournament’s founders, directors and players. These two men remained close friends and competitors through High School, Junior College, and ultimately teammates and roommates at Arizona State University in 1981 (coached by Myron McNamara.) Once in their 30s, while on a camping trip in the Mojave desert, they penciled out the now twenty year old event, The Woody. It quickly became apparent that with both founders being competitors they needed a third voice or "vote" should any problems arise during the event. Steve Higginbotham, a sports photographer (and paramedic) joined the team forming what is now the Woody Committee.
Their common tennis experience over the years best reflected another time, another era, when Patriotism (America's best played and owned Davis Cup '78, '79, '81, 82 - 13 total wins as of 4/14/11, Sweden #2 at 7), Integrity (surrendering the next point for bad line call in your favor), Honor (Pro vs. Amateur boycotts & paving the way for the ATP and the "Open" era), and of course, Guts (Arthur Ashe) were the norm. Today these values are the benchmarks for measuring your "Woodness," these values are the attributes of a "Man of Wood."
The Woody Tennis Championships® honors tennis' unique history by using wood racquets exclusively. Players pound white tennis balls, wear white shorts and shirts, enforces rules of conduct, and for the last 24 years have enjoyed the luxury of the grass courts of PGA West in La Quinta, California. It was another "man-of-wood" John Austin, then Director of Tennis at PGA West, who appreciated the significance of our event and was delighted to offer his courts for competition. It has been the home of The Woody ever since.
The Woody's 50 or so regular players were all competitive players at one time or another and all made the transition from wood to graphite during their peak playing years. It is one of those intangibles that makes our sport so compelling, and what makes The Woody so unique. There were just a handful of pro players who successfully embraced and mastered both technologies (Mac on one side of that success story, Borg's on the other.) In 2010 The Woody crowned it's youngest Woody champ, Spencer Hing at 18 years, while playing both with and against our oldest player (during the round robin segment of the draw), Jim Settles Sr. 83 years old (former Pepperdine tennis tennis team and owner for multiple national tennis championships.) Many of its' players remain teaching pros, tennis industry representatives, and all are tennis nuts.
As tennis changed, so has The Woody, and so have the players and their priorities. Both Settles and Swope, as well as most of the Men of Wood, are now family men. After so many years, The Woody had reached an impasse. The Woody became an answer that needed a question. What else could The Woody be? A cause for good was an easy answer. So The Woody began sending extra cash from our event to tennis related special needs like Andrea Jeager's Silver Lining Foundation (love those beautiful kids...), NJTL programs, and ultimately settling upon The Freedom Alliance, a scholarship fund benefiting the families of America's fallen soldiers (and a behind the scenes tribute to their veteran fathers-ours the first generation not to serve.) Admittedly, the funds generated by our players’ entry fees was meager, a few hundred dollars. So we began a raffle and auction, offering products generously donated by friends, reps and co-workers. A signed Andre Agassi Head Radical raised $650 alone, but the auction cash still seemed inadequate when comparing the approx. $1500 totals, to the sacrifice of the recipients; our veterans and their families.
The Woody would like to do more. . .
Please take a minute to visit our website where you can see and link to all the companies who generously contribute to The Woody in one way or another, and all who support our charitable cause. Thank you too for your donations to The Freedom Alliance.
The Wood is Good!
The Woody Tennis Championships® is a registered trademark.