The Buffalo Racquet Club will celebrate its 60th anniversary with a party at 6 p.m. Aug. 24 at Banchetti’s Grove in Amherst.
The group has much to commemorate.
Sixty years ago, places like the Miller Tennis Center (formerly Amherst Hills) and the Village Glen Tennis Club did not exist.
Many of the outstanding tennis players in Western New York at that time, such as Bob Scamurra, Dr. Vince Scamurra, Irv Brent, Gerry Goldsman, Ed Lindsay and Dick Kamprath, had to travel to Toronto, Rochester and Syracuse to play at private tennis clubs that featured excellent clay courts.
There were no private facilities like those in the Buffalo area.
When talk first started about building such a club in this region, there were many discussions about whether it would be a success. For a period of time it looked as if such a project would never come to fruition.
However, a group of 30 of the area’s top players came together to discuss the opening of a new tennis club in the area.
Close to $5,000 was raised from local corporations and individuals.
Shortly after that, in 1953, many of the members and their families gathered at an area that would become the new Buffalo Tennis Club, which is now known as the Buffalo Racquet Club, digging up the ground to prepare the land.
In the spring of 1954, the club officially opened for play. The facility had three beautiful clay courts and lighting. The club also was equipped with shower and locker room facilities for both men and women.
Originally, the club was mainly used by the top players in the area.
However, the response to membership was so overwhelming that players from all levels were joining to play on the courts. In 1959, three more courts were added.
From the mid-1960’s to the 1970’s the club’s membership flourished at a high level. However, with the popularity of Amherst Hills Tennis Center (now Miller Tennis Center), Village Glen and South Town Tennis Center, membership was not as high as it used to be.
Today, the club has 200 members, and many volunteers who have spent countless hours keeping the courts and facility in great shape.
Many people have contributed to the continuing success of the club over the years:
• Frank Gennuso has been the club’s manager for the past two years. He and his committee of club member volunteers have done a phenomenal job in getting the courts ready each spring. Members first put up wind screens and light post pads. For the last three years Buffalo Landscaping and Irrigation has put brick dust and clay on the courts, tills them and semi-levels the court surface. “Without the cooperation of the members it would not be possible to operate the club,” Gennuso said.
• Bob Furminger, current president of the Buffalo Racquet Club, and Ray Sierzchula have been stellar volunteers who have been involved in much of the remodeling of the club. They prepared plumbing underneath the clubhouse, saving the club over $1,000, and have also undertaken many other money-saving projects.
• Joe DiCarlo was the manager of the club from 1959 to 1974. DiCarlo actually started working at the club as a groundskeeper, became the club manager, and then the club teaching pro; becoming one of the finest pros in Western New York history. When he first started working at the club, he knew nothing about taking care of the courts and it was a big challenge. With the help of club members, they eventually did a marvelous job in producing three outstanding clay courts.
• Art Richtand is 92 years young and is still playing tennis well. Richtand was the Marsh Cup Tennis Team captain for 16 years. The Marsh Cup features team competition among clubs from Rochester, Syracuse, Toronto and Buffalo that compete against each other on a rotating basis once a year. He treasured his years on the job and did an outstanding job as captain.
• Ron Palmere has put in many hours of his own time at the Buffalo Racquet Club by getting many new members to join.
“Prospective members who are thinking of joining the club are often apprehensive because they don’t have anyone to play with,” Palmere said. “I make sure that I hit with them and evaluate their level of play in order to find other players of the same level for them to play with.”
• Dave Mosgeller was club president from 1993 to 1994. He was a major factor in a huge renovation at the club.
“Lighting, a new drainage system, new electrical processes, and a sprinkling system were all greatly improved,” Mosgeller said.
• Jim Faturos was the club manager for more than 15 years. Faturos, who lived near the club, treated the courts as if they were his own. His attention to detail, his professionalism and easygoing manner were all attributes that members were cognizant of. There seemingly wasn’t any problem that he couldn’t solve.
Tickets for the party, which includes food and an open bar, may be purchased by sending a check for $25 by Aug. 11 to Heather Ratke, 89 Grosvenor Road, Buffalo, NY 142243.