At age 45, Don Becker resigned eight years ago from his job with the Town of Amherst Engineering Department to become a full-time tennis teacher at the Village Glen in Williamsville.
Many people thought that he was making a big mistake to leave a position that provided him with a good salary, benefits, and a pension to pursue a career in teaching tennis.
Many people were wrong.
"I had been teaching part-time at the Village Glen and was an assistant coach at Niagara University for a couple of years while I was still working for the Town of Amherst," Becker said. "It was evident that my part-time job was becoming more enjoyable than my full-time position. I realized that teaching tennis was something I loved and wanted to do on a full-time basis."
Becker has become one of the finest teaching pros ever in Western New York.
About four years ago Becker became interested in teaching at Peter Burwash International, the world's most successful tennis management company. The company provides instruction at 69 resorts and tennis clubs around the world.
This past year more than 16,000 inquiries were forwarded to the Burwash program. Five pros were selected and Becker was one of the five. He has already been in training in Georgia to become a full-time tennis professional for Burwash.
"To be selected to teach in the Burwash program is an honor of the highest level," Becker said.
Most tennis players and followers of the game were not surprised by Becker's appointment.
Roy Manno is a former Bishop Timon-St. Jude and University at Buffalo basketball great. He was a tennis student of Becker's at the Village Glen.
"Don respected every player, regardless of their ability level," Manno said. "His dedication to his job and his teaching performance was outstanding."
Becker's teaching credentials are impeccable. He has his Professional Tennis Registry Certification, United States Professional Tennis Association certification and the USTA High Performance Coaching Program certificate.
He was also the pro of choice for Mary Wilson whenever she was in town. Mary is the wife of Buffalo Bills owner Ralph Wilson and is one of the top five players in the world in her 60-and-over age group. It was a tribute to Becker's proficiency that she selected Becker over the many distinguished teaching pros in Western New York.
Becker must complete 400 hours of training for Burwash in a month's time, often working 12-hour days, before he begins his actual teaching at one of the Burwash sites.
After his training is completed he could be assigned anywhere in the world for a six-month stint.
"I could be sent to Hawaii, Singapore, Costa Rica, Dubai or any other site," Becker said.
Once he has completed his training Becker's schedule will consist of six-day work weeks. He will also receive a month's vacation, room and board, a salary and/or a commission, depending on his location, health and liability insurance, a 401k plan, a Wilson racket and shoe sponsorship, and all expenses for travel for any Burwash-related activities.
After he has completed his six-month assignment he will have some input as to where and how long his next assignment will be.
Even though Becker is thrilled about his new job he does have mixed emotions.
"It isn't easy leaving Buffalo," he said. "My parents still live here as well as my three daughters. Fortunately, my daughters have their own successful careers. I'll also miss Jack and Maritza Ruh, who are the owners of the Village Glen. They treated me fabulously and I will always cherish their friendship. I'm also going to miss the wonderful staff at the Glen, especially Debbie and Tracy."
Maritza Ruh admitted that Becker's leaving was a great loss.
"Don epitomized what a consummate professional should be," she said. "He understood each of his students' needs and prepared appropriately for each one. His level of integrity is second to none and I'm sure that he will have a superlative career in his new venture."