USTA Serves Revives Pro-Am Tennis in the Hamptons
by midge richardson
The money raised at Pro-Am games support community-based tennis programs including Lobs & Lessons in Virginia.
In the ’70s, my late husband, Ham Richardson (twice ranked the number one tennis player in the US and a doubles winner at the US Open), and I decided to help raise money for Guild Hall and thought a Pro-Am tennis tournament would be an effective way to do so. However, it would more accurately be a Celeb-Am tourney. We held this one-day event on the private tennis courts of friends who agreed to open up their East Hampton estates. They hosted not only morning and early afternoon matches but also provided lunch for the players and paying guests who had come to watch. We had avid tennis playing celebs such as George Plimpton, Alan Alda, and the playwright Peter Stone, paired with paying amateurs. The night before the event, Ham and I hosted a dinner at our Bridgehampton home for the players. It was great fun, quite successful, and we repeated it for several years.
In the mid-’80s the financier Tony Forstmann asked Ham to help set up a Pro-Am tourney on the court of his Water Mill estate as well as the courts of his neighbors—financier Jack Nash, Zena Jeans president and owner Dick Gilbert, and real estate mogul Murray H. Goodman—in the week preceding the US Open, since all the top tennis pros came to New York at that time. The event was called Camp Huggy Bear, Tony’s family nickname because he hugged everyone.
Mary Carillo, USTA Serves president, Bahar Uttam, board of directors, and Deborah Slaner Larkin, executive director.
In the first few years a successful Calcutta (an auction of the teams) was held at an intimate dinner the night before, and teams were sold to the highest bidders, always going for thousands of dollars. Until 2009, this tournament grew and raised more than a million dollars for charity. Among the pros, Pancho Segura and Ham played in the early years; later Fred Stolle, John McEnroe, and Andre Agassi. A big gala preceding the tournament was hosted on Dick Gilbert’s estate with entertainment like Ray Charles or the Dixie Chicks.
Just two months ago, I received a call from Sean Mayo, a friend and USTA Serves board of directors member, who asked about resurrecting the Pro-Am tennis tournament to raise money to support college tennis scholarships and community-based tennis programs. USTA Serves, the national charitable foundation of the USTA, raises money to improve the quality of life of young Americans and people with disabilities. To date, they have given out $15 million in scholarships and grants.
The August 23 event will be held as a doubles round robin, with a cocktail reception the evening before. Chris Evert, four-time Grand Slam champion Jim Courier, Patrick McEnroe, Mardy Fish, and USTA Serves president Mary Carillo are coming out to support the effort. Having Chris there will be special, as she was such a big part of American tennis in the ’70s. Forty years later, it’s wonderful that we can still hold this type of event and can still give back. We’ve started a new tradition that, hopefully, will exist for generations to come.
What: The Bridge Cocktail Reception
When and Where: August 22 at The Bridge, 1180 Millstone Road, Bridgehampton
Save the Date: USTA Serves Pro-Am in the Hamptons will be held on August 23 at East Hampton Indoor Tennis, 175 Daniels Hole Road, East Hampton
photograph by Ginalysse Ingles (tennis lesson); Domenica Comfort (Carillo)