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Amherst Clarence Women’s Tennis Club marks 50th anniversary

In the 50 years of the Amherst Clarence Women’s Tennis Club, it's estimated that more than 500 different women have played doubles at one time or another. As the club recently celebrated its 50th anniversary, think about that: Club members have been playing only doubles for 50 years and have spent the last 30 at the Village Glen after playing at various clubs and high school courts for the first 20 years.

Nancy Naylon, now 88, founded the club and shared the story of how the groups of women began playing.

In 1967, Naylon was a young, busy mother. She started playing tennis at the Park Country Club with Pat Keller, Nancy Brost, Jevy Littlewood and Jean Puff. About a year later, Naylon and her husband Dick and another couple -- Tom and Mitzi Miller -- were at a concert. They discussed why there weren’t more women playing tennis.

After many phone calls and talking to other players, 20 women from the Amherst Clarence area became the first group. The women would play doubles at Amherst High School, Williamsvile South and sometimes mixed doubles with their husbands at Erie Community College.

Shortly after they approached Denny Galesi, the owner of the Buffalo Tennis Center, about playing at his club. Every Wednesday the courts would be totally full with close to 40 women playing each week. But the club closed a few years later and they had to look for a new club.

Fortunately, the Four Seasons Tennis Club opened and the women had a place to play. The club was sold a few years later and became the Village Glen. Players from all levels and different ages played at the Glen. Matches were made in order that players could compete against other players of the same levels.

The camaraderie and sportsmanship were a sight to behold. It was evident that the women greatly enjoyed their time on the tennis courts.

The 50th anniversary celebration came about from a call from the current president, Kathie Weaver. She wanted to meet with Naylon, Claire Schultz, Kathy Campbell, Nadine Bartels, Wendy Salviti and Barb Zenger about celebrating their 50th anniversary.

The women played at the Glen to celebrate the 50th anniversary and then had lunch afterward at the club with an open house at the home of Dr. Edward and Nadine Bartels later in the day.

"To be honest, I was surprised that the groups were still going so strong after so many years," Naylon said. "Players had so many things going on. They were traveling, raising families and planning their work schedule. However, friendships have lasted forever. Hopefully they will continue for another 50 years.”

Claire Schultz was president of the ACTC from 1982-87. She said running a well-organized program has been a key to its longevity.

She stressed that the players in charge tried to make every match competitive. There was always a list of 60-70 people and they all loved playing tennis. The highlight of each year was the midwinter event when men were invited to play mixed doubles. The night would end with an excellent dinner at a local restaurant.

“Best of all most of us are still close and we share many memories of our ACTC tennis playing days," Schultz said.

The leaders of the club always tried to create a welcoming environment.

“The friendships that we have made through tennis have lasted a lifetime," said Weaver, who has been the president for the last three years. "We have always welcomed anyone who wanted to play in the group.  It didn’t matter whether you were extremely competitive or just wanted to play for the enjoyment of the game. Everyone was welcome."

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