|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
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
tournaments 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 19 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 40-50 players over the last 20 years 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
Peperdine 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, thanks 43), 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 20 players entry fees was meager, a few hundred dollars. So 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. . .
In 2011, the year following Jack Kramer's memorial event, and it's 20 year
anniversary, (and after having tapped all the Woody regulars over the
years), The Woody is trying to up the ante. Both Settles and Swope had known and worked with Jack Kramer over the last 25 years and are offering from their private collection, two autographed Jack Kramer racquets, an original woody, and a "Millennium Kramer" graphite racquet-a tribute racquet offered in a limited edition by Wilson Sporting Goods a few years back. They are both gorgeous and never strung, all original.
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.
Wood is Good.
Our Special thanks to Bill and Meredith Asher who will once again host The Woody at PGA West in La Quinta, California. Since our first meeting in 1996, the Asher's have adopted our event and are our most loyal fans and supporters. Thank you Bill and Meredith!
Stephen Higginbotham rounds out the tournament committee to three members. An avid tennis player he opts not to play so as to remain neutral in the event a deciding overrule is needed. Steve is a freelance sports photographer and is responsible for most of the action photographs displayed in this site.
The Woody Tennis Championships® is a registered trademark.
Steve Higginbotham, Jim Settles, Granville Swope in 1993