If you played on the Draper Avenue courts of the La Jolla Tennis Club any time since the 1970s, odds are you know Bob Perry.
As tennis director from 1970 to 1999, Perry was in charge of giving lessons, booking matches, ensuring the courts were in good shape, and seeing to it that all players were welcomed.
And while he retired 20 years ago, a recent hospitalization prompted Tennis Club members to honor Perry during the annual Fall Tournament, Oct. 5.
“Too often, we let people go by without recognizing them and thanking them for their contributions to a program, in this case, the La Jolla Tennis Club, so we wanted to do that before it was too late,” said current Club manager Scott Farr. “Bob was literally the man around here, he had a major impact on the world of tennis. If you played tennis here, you knew him.”
And some of the biggest names in tennis also knew him.
“Rod Laver was probably the best tennis player in the history of time,” Farr said. “I met him once and asked if he ever played Bob Perry, Laver said he hadn’t but knew him. He said, ‘Everyone knows Bob.’ ”
Perry also played doubles with Maureen Connolly, the first woman to win all four Grand Slam tournaments during the same calendar year, and for whom the “Little Mo” tennis tournament is named.
During a brief ceremony, Farr told those gathered: “The story goes, when they would play, Little Mo would say, ‘You throw up that big serve and get out of my way!’ ”
Further touting Perry’s resume, Farr said Perry won the NCAA championships for two years while attending UCLA. “It would have been four years, but they didn’t let freshmen compete, and his sophomore year, he was sick,” he said. “But we know he would have won.”
From there, Perry played professional tennis and won the French Open doubles in 1956, “which very few Americans had won at that time”; represented the United States in the Davis Cup; and won the first Auckland Championships in 1956.
Logan Jenkins, tennis player and former editor of the La Jolla Light, added: “Bob was the pro here. He would come down twice a day, even when his health was challenged. He is so connected to the game and the people here, he’s is a part of the club. He’s like the bleachers or the nets. He’s part of the terrain.
“After Bob retired, he would play with everybody. He’s a smart, capable man and he reflected the club’s culture. We have been lucky to have him as a pro and as an enduring character.”
Upon his arrival, to the sound of tennis balls hitting the court, the man of the hour briefly told the Light: “I didn’t know anyone was going to do this until a couple of days ago, so this is very nice. It’s great that they are having this.”
Of his beloved club, Perry added: “This is a place where you can always find people to play, and for a public facility, this is as good as they come.”
During a brief ceremony, Perry was presented with a plaque that will be kept in the tennis house. It reads: “Outstanding Service Award presented to Bob Perry in recognition of his extraordinary contributions to the La Jolla Tennis Club, 2019.”