The Buffalo Muny Tennis Championships will take place July 9-19 at Delaware Park. The tournament is sponsored by the Buffalo Niagara Community Tennis Association. There will be singles and doubles play for all levels of ability from 2.5 to open play.
It’s hard to believe that the Buffalo Muny Tennis Championships started 92 years ago. When the tournament first started there were four sites throughout the city and only open play.
The winners of each site would advance to the South Drive Courts in both men’s and women’s play. The overall winners were recognized as men’s and women’s city champions respectively.
The local Muny tournament is thought to be the longest running tournament of its type in the United States. Players from the past and present have provided what is arguably some of the most exciting matches in the area.
The list of Muny Singles Open Champions reads like the Who’s Who of most of the great tennis players from the past.
Rev. Bob Hetherington: The Rev’s record speaks for itself. He won six Muny Open Tennis Singles Championships, a National Public Parks Singles Championship and two National Public Park Doubles titles. What made his accomplishments so amazing was he was often beating players 10-15 years younger.
Ethel Marshall: She won the City Muny Singles title a mind-boggling 13 years in a row and won the Muny Open Doubles title an incredible 16 consecutive.
Jack Sunderland: The 1963 Muny Singles Champion, Sunderland had a tennis background that was second to none in Western New York. He competed against Tony Trabert, a top 10 player in the world, Ron Homberg, a top 10 U.S. player, and Pancho Gonzalez, who went on to become the No. 1 ranked player on the pro tour eight times.
Pat Lord: The seven-time Muny Singles and Doubles Champion also won her share of Muny Mixed Open titles. When she retired from tennis a few years ago, she took up running and became one of the top runners in her age group in WNY.
Leo Kronman: He won the Muny Singles title four times and the Muny Doubles five times in the 1920’s. His strokes were smooth and graceful. Kronman’s legacy was that he was the founder of the Buffalo Evening News Tennis School for youngsters 18-and-under. Every top junior player in WNY was part of the tennis school, which had its main base in Delaware Park.
Carol Kraus: She was a five-time Muny Open Singles Champion and starred at Syracuse University where she won the prestigious Eastern Collegiate Women’s Tennis Championships during her senior year. This included schools such as Yale, Harvard and Princeton. Even at an early age she was a threat in the Muny Championships.
Ken White: He was a two-time Muny Open Singles Champion and was in the finals many times. Even at the age of 52, he is still a force against players 20-30 years younger. White starred at UB and is its only All-American tennis player. He is presently ranked in the top 10 in both singles and doubles in the over-50 division nationally. White has won over 20 National Senior Singles and Doubles titles.
Lyndsay Shosho: A star at Georgia Tech. She and Rachel Epstein are the only two local women who were Division I All-Americans in tennis. Shosho was noted for her classic ground strokes and her wonderful court demeanor. She still plays an occasional local tournament and is presently a tennis professional at Miller Tennis Center. She coached tennis at the University of Hawaii.
Seth Bowen: A former Muny Singles Champion, Bowen was ranked No. 1 as WNY’s top player from 1983-85. He had a wonderful all-around game and starred at Arizona State. He later competed on the men’s pro tour and attained some ATP points.
Kelly Brown: She was a five-time Muny Singles Champion and in 2000 she was ranked No. 1 as the best female tennis player over the last 50 years by The News. Since graduating from the University of Kentucky she has coached tennis at various clubs and universities. She was the head tennis coach at the Buffalo Racquet Club until last year.
Dirk Dugan: The towering 6-foot-4 Dugan is a former Muny Singles and Doubles Champion. Dugan won the National Public Parks Doubles title with Chris Sadkowski of Buffalo. He starred at Cornell at first singles and was All-Ivy League his last three years. He reached the third round of the NCAAs in college.
Karen Peterson: Peterson, who won three Muny Open Singles titles, holds a Muny record that may never be broken. In 1979, she won six titles in the tournament – Muny Open Singles, Open Doubles, Open Mixed Doubles, Junior Vet’s Singles, Doubles and Mixed. Needless to say, her endurance and intestinal fortitude were outstanding.
David Lode: He won the Muny Open Singles and doubles in the mid-1970’s. He is highly regarded as one of the most outstanding local players to have ever competed in college as a doubles player. When he played at Clemson, he and his partner would consistently defeat John Sadri (North Carolina), the Atlantic Coast Conference’s top singles player, and his partner.
Bridget Merrick: She and Kelly Brown played many finals against each other. After competing at the University of Richmond, Merrick used her tremendous serve and volley in doubles to compete professionally on the Satellite Tour in 1998-99 in the United States, France and Italy.
Neil Simon: A Muny Open Singles winner, he had a tennis game that reminded me of Neil Simon, the famous playwright. He was a virtuoso on the court and had as much ability as many of the other top players in the Buffalo area. After starring at Amherst High School he attended Tulane University on a full tennis and academic scholarship. He had an outstanding record at Tulane and played first singles all four years. He presently resides in Atlanta.
Ross Nwachukwu: A four-time Muny Singles Open Champion, his matches with Simon were the summer highlight locally when they were both at their peak. Nwachukwu was All High at first singles for three years when he played at Bennett. He was the first local male high school tennis player to get to the New York State High School Singles finals. He starred at Drake University and played for short time on the pro tour. He became head coach at Drake and later returned to Buffalo where he is a tennis pro at the Village Glen.
Lou Schafer: Schafer won two Muny Open Singles titles. However, his forte was in doubles where he won 15 Muny titles over a 30-year period with a multitude of partners. Lou had an uncanny net game and a deadly lob.
Cathy DiCarlo-Zbieszkowski: Cathy was a two-time Muny Open Singles Champion and won many Muny Open Doubles titles with her sister Debbie DiCarlo-Miller. Cathy and Debbie were taught tennis by their father, Joe, who was one of the best tennis pros to ever teach in WNY. Cathy starred at Syracuse with Carol Kraus to provide a strong twosome in Eastern collegiate play.
Jack Castle: He stood only 5-4, but don’t let that fool you. He won multiple Muny Singles and Doubles titles. He had a serve in doubles that would look like an arc on a rainbow. The serve would literally be hit 15 to 20 feet in the air. This would enable Castle to approach the net and consistently volley returns that were only 3-4 feet from the net. Castle competed in open doubles into his 50s and still played remarkably well.
Mike Albano: He starred at Amherst High School and Middle Tennessee State. Albano won the Muny Singles Championship in 1968 and won many local doubles championships. His American Twist serve was one of the toughest ever seen in Western New York. He could literally make the ball bounce to the left or right, making it very difficult to return.
Dan Schulefand: He played at UB with Ken White, and they became one of the strongest doubles teams ever to have played in Western New York. Schulefand was a Muny Singles winner and was especially strong on clay courts where his high bouncing shots on both his forehand and backhand wreaked havoc on opponents’ psyches.
Dr. Lenore Simpson-Englander: Dr. Englander pulled off one of the most amazing upsets in Muny history when she upset Pat Lord to win her only Women’s Singles title. After winning the first set against Lord, she was soundly defeated 6-0 in the second. Englander than played the set of her life to defeat Lord in the third set. What made her win even more amazing was the fact that Englander had won her first Muny Singles title at the age of 50!
Clay Hamlin: Hamlin was a three-time Muny Singles Champion and won a Muny Open doubles title with his cousin Jim Wadsworth. Hamlin starred at Nichols and at the University of Pennsylvania. He had classic strokes.
Vusa Hove: He is a four-time Singles Champion and is the defending champion this year. He is a fierce competitor with a never-say-die attitude. It will be interesting to see if he can win a fifth straight title in what appears to be an exceptionally strong field this year.
Gus Franczyk: A five-time Muny Open Singles champion, Franczyk would drive his opponent crazy with devastating topspin lobs. He was also the Muny Tennis director for a number of years.
Joe Turski: Turski won five Muny Open Singles titles. He was outstanding on the volley and used his long arms to return shots that seemed unreturnable. Turski was a fierce competitor and a perfect gentleman on the court.
• Tournament applications and match scheduling can be located at www.bncta.org. The schedule of play is after 4 p.m. on weekdays and starting at 9 a.m. on weekends. Starting time requests or conflicts should be noted on entry forms when you enter the tournament.