More than five decades ago, a group of African American tennis enthusiasts gathered at a local YMCA to discuss tennis and playing opportunities in the Philadelphia area. It didn’t take long for that meeting’s impact to be felt in the community, as the Philadelphia Tennis Club (PTC) opened its doors just a year and a half later in May of 1959.
Since then, PTC has become one of the most fabled clubs in Philadelphia and beyond, as it is now said to be the oldest African American club in America. Today, PTC is cherished in the community not just for the quality of courts, but for the quality of the game that it promotes to juniors, and the group of people who call it their home court.
“For years I had been involved with tennis and with supporting juniors, but I had never attached myself to a facility or a club,” said Dr. Franklin Scott, who currently serves as the American Tennis Association President and has been involved with the PTC for more than a decade. “At one point, someone told me about the Philadelphia Tennis Club and I learned about the history and what it was all about. I appreciated everything about it and became a member. It’s a great place.”
The Philadelphia Tennis Club offers a bit of everything, from play opportunities like leagues and tournaments, all the way to private lessons, adult and children’s clinics, after-school programming and more. Recently, the team that plays out of PTC won the 2012 USTA Adult League Super Senior Section Championships and advanced to nationals, which will take place April 19-21 in Surprise, Ariz.
All of the play opportunity is great, but for those who have experienced the club and the people that surround it, the importance of the PTC to the African American Community is tough to measure and put into words.
It officially began on May 19, 1959, as a nonprofit organization to promote the game of tennis among adults, but more importantly to encourage boys and girls, beginners and advanced, to enjoy the game and to continue participation. The original group consisted of 18 people, and meetings were conducted at members’ homes.
“Back when it was first being put together, things weren’t so good for blacks,” said Ralph Mundy, a long-time tennis player who helped captain the men’s 8.0 Super Senior team in 2012. “There weren’t that many places to play – not many things were black-oriented. When the Philadelphia Tennis Club came around, it was perfect. It was a nice opportunity.”
Things started small, and as the years progressed, the facility grew. Today, PTC boasts four clay courts, three hard courts and a clubhouse that is constantly buzzing with tennis activity. Two of the three hard courts feature blended lines, which matches up perfectly for the 10 and Under Tennis crew.
“And for us old guys, it’s perfect for our aging knees,” Mundy joked.
Even more importantly, it’s a hub for tennis in the Philadelphia community. It has helped several juniors earn college scholarships and playing opportunities at higher levels, as well as taught valuable life lessons to youngsters in the community – something that’s expected to continue for years to come.
“I’ve been told that the area, years ago, was depressed and deprived,” Scott added. “That club has revitalized the community.”
For more information on the Philadelphia Tennis Club, click here.