Club History

Tennis in the Cayman Islands probably has a longer history than most other sports played and enjoyed here today, with the exception of fishing and boating, of course. Unlike the latter, interest and enthusiasts have come and gone over years.

In The Beginning
Although there had been one or two private courts built on Grand Cayman, the first apparent sincere interest in tennis here arrived in 1929 in the person of Commissioner G. H. Frith. He, together with Dr. Roy McTaggart, arranged the construction of a marl court on Dr. Roy's property on South Church Street, where "Windsor House" now stands. For two or three years, many of the sixty or so members of the George Town Tennis Club took part in and enjoyed the matches and tournaments organised, but the departure of Mr. Frith, as well as many Caymanian's to sea, brought an end to the era. The court was still used by a few players till about 1955, but it was several years before organised tennis sprang up again.

Grand Cayman Tennis and Sports Club
About 1960, a concrete court was built at Pageant Beach Hotel (blazed by fire in 1975,since cleared and still pending development); within a year, a group led by Judge Robinson formed the Grand Cayman Tennis and Sports Club and was offered the use of the court. The club flourished and within a very short time managed to build two asphalt courts at the secondary school on Eastern Avenue, their home for the next five years. However, by 1968 interest waned, the club dissolved and the courts were left to the elements.

Cayman Islands Tennis Association
Although many (inactive) tennis players populated the community, it was not until the early 70"s brought to Cayman's shores another wave of enthusiasts that tennis arrived to stay. The meeting place again was the Pageant Beach court but, within a short time, they moved to the newly-constructed court at Prospect which never did have a surrounding fence or a net provided; the players carried their own net for their twice weekly game. Shortly thereafter, they moved on to the rebuilt court at Galleon Hotel. By 1973, it was felt that the time was right to organise their quickly-expanding group.
The Cayman Islands Tennis Association was formed January 8th, 1974 at a meeting of interested players at the Galleon Hotel attended by twenty-eight potential players. The driving force this time was the late Bryan Lauer, then Registrar of Lands, who was unanimously elected the Association's first President and, under his direction, the aims of the association were agreed and have come far to promote tennis in the island, especially by providing facilities and coaching for juniors, and to build sufficient courts for its members' use.

Cayman Islands Tennis Club
In order to formally become landholders with liabilities, the association was incorporated under the Companies Law on March 22, 1978 as a non-profit organisation limited by guarantee. It was further considered that as other clubs in the islands were evident, "association" should be reserved for future "association of clubs" and the committee took the opportunity to change the name on incorporation. It has since been known as the Cayman Islands Tennis Club.

The clubhouse was completed and formally opened in October 1980 by Fred Perry, former Wimbledon champion and England Davis Cup player. Finishing touches and improvements to the building have enabled the club to hold its Annual General meetings at its own premises since April 1981 and to organise and host a number of social events, the most popular and successful of which have been the New Year's Eve parties, started in 1980.

The clubhouse opening became an even more noteworthy occasion as both Mr. Perry and former Governor Thomas Russell (retired from Colonial Government Service, and presently the Cayman Islands' official representative in Britain) were invited and honored the club by becoming its first Honorary members.

Although life membership was introduced and approved at a general meeting of members held May 1, 19080, it was not until September of that year that the first applications were received and approved; Barton and Elaine Kirkconnell became the club's first life members, and this class of membership now totals 9. As at January 31, 1983, overall membership increased in the past year from 217 to 280, and junior players from 86 to 98.

Matches against overseas teams have been a regular feature of the curriculum over past years and have included visits from neighbouring clubs in Jamaica, Costa Rica, Bahamas and Florida, as well as a team from the International Lawn Tennis Club of Great Britain, on which occasion the club acquitted itself very well by earning a draw.

However, the still small concentration of competitive players and full agenda of local organised events leave little time or available players to promote exchange competitions as well; the only exchanges during the past year were with the Liguanea Club of Jamaica and Eastern Airlines team from Florida. The club again organised a three-week Tennis Clinic in December, its second for both island residents and club members, instruction being given by Butch Staples, Chief Instructor at Grey Rocks, Quebec, and his assistants. Participants, many of whom took part in several programs, numbered 98 (over last year's 66).
At home club events this past year also included, for the first time a triathlon sponsored by Winston and innovated by the club's tournament director, Marlene Ames, adapted by her from curling competition, as a possible replacement for the unwieldy Handicap Tournament until now held annually. Briefly, all participants are guaranteed at least three matches, the results of their first and second matches determining whether they remain in category "A" or move down the ladder to either category "B" or "C", thus arriving at their fair level of competition.

Four and one half years were to pass before the courts became a reality but Mr. Lauer reported at the first Annual General Meeting that membership had reached one hundred and five.

As well as retaining the use of Galleon court every Sunday morning and on any other special occasion, the group was fortunate in being able to arrange "temporary" accommodation for the next four and one-half years. At the time the association was formed, two new courts were under construction at Mitchell's Creek Gardens (now Lime Tree Bay) and they were able to negotiate with the developers a monthly lease of the courts until such time as the condominium owners would take over the development. Of course, there was no power (or money) to provide lights, and mosquitos and construction workers were of time more plentiful than tennis players, but membership and interest continued to grow.

Existence of the association was seriously threatened in September of 1975 when the new developers of the condominium project requested that members find a new location, on less than two week's notice. They had to have courts - they only had tennis to offer. There were at the time still only eight courts on the islands -- Pageant Beach, Prospect, Galleon and Beach Club with one each and Holiday Inn with four, all primarily for their own guests' use. As luck would have it, two of the four courts built by the Holiday Inn to the north of their premises were being abandoned for inferior construction and they were offered to the association on a monthly basis by Grand Cayman Hotels, the proprietors of the land. Many determined members spent many long hours in the grueling sun, removing by hand the rubberised surface which was lying in heaps so that the courts could be painted.

It must be recorded here that, although many, many people contributed to the growth and survival of the present club, due to the behind the scenes assistance of David Mitchell during the early 70's then manager of Galleon Beach Hotel, tennis in Cayman was given a great boost.

As early as March, 1974 the association was offered the use of land at Pirate Cove Estates in South Sound and, after almost two years of serious discussions with the owners of that land and many other sites being considered, a long lease was finalised to acquire 2.5 acres of land, and the association commenced clearing the site in July of 1977. With the exception of filling and grading the land, the members (under the able supervision of Bryan Lauer and John Aiken) provided the necessary labour to erect the fencing and complete the surfacing of the club's first four courts. The first tournament took place on the new courts in July 1978.
The Triathlon was well received and is slated to become an annual event. During the past year, lights have been installed on all four courts, adding numerous members' use. It is also envisaged, weather permitting, that all Open Tournament matches can be scheduled on the club's own courts for the first time. Events were scheduled in 1981 for the first time to enable ladies to enter the Senior Tournament (45 years of age and over), which attracted sufficient entries in the past few years to now be scheduled as a separate tournament, held prior to the Open. This year's tournament held in January was, for the first time, formally approved as an International Tennis Federation event for 1983 and the winner of the Men's Singles event was presented with the Bryan Lauer Perpetual Trophy recently donated by Derek Wight in memory of the late Mr. Lauer, his former doubles partner.

Providing the opportunity for island residents to improve their standard of play through outside competition was the original aim of the club in organising the Open Tournament annually, and this aim is being well met.For the first time in 1981 players were attracted from United States, Canada and Jamaica for the sole purpose of competing against local talent and regular winter visitors; Australian Warren Girls of Florida was the first such competitor to carry a trophy off the island. The introduction that year of a delayed entry deadline for non-residents has helped to make participating by visitors more feasible in that, as they are not required to enter preliminary rounds, they can now take part and complete the tournament within a one-week stay on the island. It is also anticipated that the club's decision to offer prize money for the first time this year to the winners of singles events will be an added attraction for high-level competition. The assistance of Cayman Airways, national flag carrier and tournament sponsor, has aided the club considerably in publicising the event outside of the islands through their connections with numerous agencies.

During the past year, the club was recognized by both the Cayman Islands Government (Health, Education and Welfare) and the Cayman Islands Olympic Committee as official tennis representatives for the Cayman Islands, resulting in eligibility for application for membership in the International Tennis Federation, headquartered in London, England. Acceptance by this prestigious body, and perhaps other, could be of invaluable assistance in publicising and promoting the club's Open Tournament in other countries.

Back home, support of the club and interest in tennis, in particular the Open Tournament, has also been demonstrated by several local business establishments who have provided this year, another first, perpetual trophies and/or plates for the winners of every scheduled event in the Open(listed in entry forms).

Although the club is still not in a position to employ salaried personnel, progress continues through the devoted efforts of members who volunteer their time, expertise, equipment and willing hands, and who care about the future of tennis in the Cayman Islands.
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