Legendary coach Nick Bollettieri entertained, the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School girls’ tennis team inspired, and volunteers across the state were honored during the 69th USTA Florida Annual Meeting & Tennis Celebration, held Nov. 17-18, 2018, at the Orlando Airport Marriott Lakeside.
Bollettieri along with former USTA Florida volunteer President Bob Pfaender were inducted into the Florida Tennis Hall of Fame.
“I’d like to say this to begin with — I have a son in the 60s, a daughter in the 50s, a daughter in the 40s, a daughter in the 30s, a daughter in the 20s, a son in the teens, and a son in the 10-and-unders. That ain’t bad,” said Bollettieri, who entertained with stories of his life and the beginnings of his legendary tennis academy. “I would like to thank USTA Florida for all they have done. These are [volunteers] who have dedicated their lives, their work to tennis with no pay.”
Speaking after a special presentation to the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School girls’ tennis team, Bollettieri from the podium asked the team to stand up then gifted them a free week of training next summer at the IMG Academy Bollettieri Tennis program in Bradenton.
“Our tennis team started our practice late, four weeks into the season,” Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School girls’ tennis coach Amy Pena said, flanked by her team on stage and speaking on the school shooting in February. “Our first practice was playing with the service dogs, the golden retrievers, on the football fields. After that we played some doubles, and the WTA’s team psychologist came and spoke to us, and we just took it one day at a time. Local pros, the USTA, Chris Evert, and the Miami Open tournament opened their arms to us and gave us moments of pure joy and laughter. We hugged, we talked, we kept pushing forward and we played every single game for the 17 lives lost at our school. We came together and worked hard, and won not only our districts but our regionals and the first round at states. Then I saw players from all over hugging us, wishing us well with their words, flowers and keepsake mementos. Tennis, you know, is an amazing sport. It gave us an outlet to heal, and to grow, and to have it as an important part of our lives.”
Award winners were:
Nick Bollettieri of Bradenton — USTA Florida Hall of Fame Award
Bob Pfaender of Lake Mary — USTA Florida Hall of Fame Award
Carol Clay of Ft. Lauderdale — USTA Florida Female Merit Award
The Duong Family of St. Petersburg — Outstanding Tennis Family of the Year
Palm Beach Gardens Tennis Center — USTA Florida Member Organization of the Year Award
Melody Johnson of Winter Haven — USTA Florida Section Volunteer of the Year
Lou Armstrong of Fort Lauderdale — USTA Florida Exceptional Adult Tennis Provider of the Year
Lisa Pugliese of North Palm Beach — USTA Florida Outstanding Diversity Achievement Award
Kara Borromeo and Lee Pettis of Cutler Bay — USTA Florida Exceptional Youth Tennis Provider Award
Here are the award winner bios and tribute videos from the 69th USTA Florida Annual Meeting & Tennis Celebration:
USTA Florida Hall of Fame Award
Nick Bollettieri of Bradenton
His slogan is, “You can do it!”
Tennis lore thoroughly documents Nick Bollettieri’s establishment of his namesake tennis academy in Bradenton in 1978. The world’s first boarding tennis academy became the model for integrated technical, physical, mental, nutritional and academic instruction around the world. Among others, Bollettieri developed 10 players who would go on to reach the world No. 1 ranking in singles, but his greatest contributions to Florida tennis have been behind the scenes and at the grassroots level.
In the 1980s and ’90s he supported Florida junior tennis by funneling lucrative sponsorships and funding to USTA Florida, then known as the Florida Tennis Association. Sponsorships obtained through his assistance included Mitsubishi Motors, adidas, Donnay USA and may more.
He has generously lent his time and IMG facilities to USTA Florida to assist with numerous initiatives, and at Florida events where he shares his passion for education and advancement with junior players. Prior to Arthur Ashe’s death, he teamed with the groundbreaking tennis advocate to found the Ashe-Bollettieri Cities programs to support youth tennis. He is currently a board member for local youth organizations in Bradenton, and assists the national USTA Foundation, among other ventures.
At 87 years old Bollettieri is still going strong, still driven to give back to tennis and local communities, and especially inspired by programs that help children.
USTA Florida Hall of Fame Award
Bob Pfaender of Lake Mary
His theme is “Never give up!”
The volunteer USTA Florida president from 2013-14 and a volunteer for more than 30 years, history will note Bob Pfaender as a partnership-making grassroots-tennis-growing advocate at a critical time when the Florida Section was preparing to double its staff size and scope in growing tennis.
The only person to be honored with both the USTA Florida Merit Award and the USTA/USPTA Florida Service Award (twice), his major contributions over the years included helping initiate the section’s $500,000 Share the Love grassroots tennis grants initiative, establishing a formal partnership between USTA Florida and USPTA Florida that became a model for other USTA sections, helping drive Florida’s Tenis para Todos Hispanic initiative adopted by USTA national, established a board position for a representative of the USPTA Florida division, and assisting in establishing the current USTA Florida Headquarters next to the USTA National Campus in Orlando.
Locally the long-time Lake Mary resident helped establish the MidFlorida Tennis Association in Orlando, one of two community tennis associations he started. As a tennis representative for Wilson he also supported USTA Florida initiatives from 10-and-under tennis to adult tournaments, workshops, charity events and the USTA Florida Foundation.
“I am very fortunate and proud of the list of accomplishments I was able to be a part of, working with our outstanding volunteers and staff through my years with USTA Florida,” he says. “It’s been an amazing opportunity in a remarkable association.”
USTA Florida Female Merit Award
Carol Clay of Ft. Lauderdale
Her slogan is, “Gratitude is the best attitude”
If Carol Clay isn’t on the court, she’s serving tennis off-court on a committee locally or at the state or national level.
Representing the U.S. at senior and super-senior level events, she has won five career International Tennis Federation Cup competitions among 11 international appearances, three as a team captain. Off the court she has served on committees ranging from adult competitive to intersectionals, seeding, rankings and sanctions, and locally for six years at her home Lauderdale Tennis Club.
“Carol has been a standout on the Florida tennis scene for over 40 years,” says USPTA board member Trish Faulkner. “First as a highly-ranked USTA and ITF player, then as a strong supporter of USTA Florida tennis by serving on various committees, particularly the very active Adult Tournament Committee. She now serves as the USTA representative on the ITF International Tournament Committee. To me she embodies everything a Hall of Famer should represent.”
Her hope is that her volunteer and competitive play has helped promote USTA Florida tennis, especially in her efforts to promote participation. “To say volunteering has enriched my life is understated,” says the 2010 Florida Volunteer of the Year, the 1994 and 2004 Florida Player of the Year, and the winner of numerous sportswomanship awards. “It has given me the opportunity to give back to our wonderful tennis community, and I am hopeful that I have had a positive effect on young players as well as senior players.”
Outstanding Tennis Family of the Year
The Duong Family of St. Petersburg
Their theme song is “We Are the Champions”
Can you remember where and what you were doing in May of 1980? Nga Duong remembers vividly. It was when Nga saved the lives of his family, in danger under the oppressive communist regime in Vietnam. He loaded his seven family members into a small boat, with 26 other relatives, resulting in 33 lives not being counted among the hundreds of thousands that died fleeing Vietnam.
In the U.S. Nga resumed the sport he had taught himself as a teenager in Vietnam, and instilled his passion for tennis in his five children and their kids. The entire family have been USTA Florida members for the past 32 years, and family members have during that time played school tennis, league tennis, captained USTA League teams and played tournaments, promoting the game along the way. Tennis, they say, has brought tremendous opportunities to their family, both personally and professionally, helping overcome social and economic hardships as immigrants to the U.S.
The family is comprised of father Nga Duong, 74; mother Xuan Duong, 70; daughter Trang Duong, 48; son Thinh Duong, 47; daughter Thuy Duong, 46; son Thi Duong, 44; daughter Thu Duong, 42; son-in-law Ken Do, 52; son-in-law Chris Oppenheimer, 45; and grandson Nicholas Oppenheimer, 19.
“USTA Florida has enabled us to meet people from all walks of life and develop long-lasting friendships,” the Duong children wrote. “Most importantly, USTA Florida has helped us maintain good health, as exemplified by my parents who are in their 70s and still enjoy a competitive game of tennis.”
USTA Florida Member Organization of the Year Award
Palm Beach Gardens Tennis Center
Their slogan is “We are Family”
Some tennis centers might rest on their laurels after receiving the USTA National Outstanding Facility Award. The City of Palm Beach Gardens Tennis Center took it as a challenge, and four years later, and five additional clay courts, four hard courts and six pickleball courts later, the center is again being touted as a template for excellence.
The city strives to maintain the center as an accessible and reasonably-priced public facility. That doesn’t stop the city from continual investment in the community asset, including a new 10,000 square-foot Tennis Center Clubhouse planned for 2019. The city manages the center directly, and city employees are continually piloting promising new programs and activities. Volunteers enhance the efforts of staff and provide valuable service as 10-and-under teaching assistants, mentors to students and program helpers.
The facility’s long list of charity and community events includes Jamie’s Angels for Players with Special Needs, Love Serving Autism, Rally for the Cure, and tournament and program events benefiting the Munroe Tennis Foundation, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, the Police Athletic League, and the Palm Beach County Vietnamese community, to name only a few. Their slogan, “We Are Family,” expresses the spirit of the Palm Beach Gardens Tennis Center and the city in general. “Like the Statue of Liberty, Palm Beach Gardens Tennis Center was a beacon of hope to a freedom-loving, club-weary player like me,” says long-time participant Maria Schreiber. “It’s neither elitist nor uppity. There are all different kinds of people here, and each one has a personal relationship with tennis.”
USTA Florida Section Volunteer of the Year
Melody Johnson of Winter Haven
“Be all that you can be”
Melody’s personal slogan is “Be all that you can be.” If that sounds familiar, it’s the old U.S. Army commercial slogan, and her mother was her kindly drill sergeant. She says, “A great lady – my mom – taught me that if you’re going to do something, do it right or don’t do it at all.”
Melody has done it all for USTA Florida Leagues for more than 15 years, serving the section as an award-winning Local Leagues Coordinator, a Grievance Committee member, chairperson, and representative from Florida to the national committee.
Recently she was appointed to the Programs Subcommittee of the USTA National Leagues Committee, where she gained best-practice knowledge of how other USTA sections administer their league programs. “Melody leads a group of eight volunteers presiding over at least 50 cases a year,” says USTA Florida Director of Leagues Christine Ducey. “Her in-depth knowledge is indispensable for the leagues department.
Melody says, “My volunteer time served on the Florida Leagues Committee has provided direction and established policy that will allow Florida Leagues to continue to flourish and grow. It has opened the door to leadership responsibilities as well as the knowledge that my efforts have helped the Florida Leagues programs, staff and players to succeed and enjoy the status of being one of the most successful sections in the country. Most importantly, it has provided friendships that I will maintain for a lifetime.”
USTA Florida Exceptional Adult Tennis
Provider of the Year
Lou Armstrong of Fort Lauderdale
Her theme song is, “This Girl is on Fire”
A local player once told Lou Armstrong she “burns for tennis,” hence her chosen theme. It describes the adult league organizer who also officiates, staffs registration tables at tournaments, plays and promotes local adult social leagues, staffs booths at pro tournaments and is an always-on USTA Leagues advocate.
A former local league coordinator for Broward County, she was proudly in attendance the last two year’s when Broward raised the trophy for the USTA Florid League Championship Cup after winning the most league sectionals titles in 2016 and 2017.
Her devotion to USTA Leagues comes from more than 15 years of organizing and playing, and her efficiency in growing local programs comes from her connection to players and the community. Last year she created Broward’s first USTA weekday league, a ladies Combo that filled a gap for local players. This year she expanded the day league to 40 & Over and 55 & Over play as the night leagues continued to flourish. Coming from a marketing and events background hasn’t hurt her ability to connect with clubs and bring in new players, captains and fellow volunteers.
The former USTA Local League Coordinator of the Year award winner also last year received Broward’s League Volunteer of the Year award. “It never seems like work,” she says. “I love being a part of the growth that I see happening to the organization, and it makes me want to contribute more.”
USTA Florida Outstanding Diversity Achievement Award
Lisa Pugliese of North Palm Beach
“Be the change you wish to see in the world.” — Mahatma Gandhi
A college tennis star and player on the women’s tour before injury cut short her career in her 20s, Lisa Pugliese says she found her most rewarding experiences, and her purpose, when she became involved with the special-needs community and serving the fight against autism.
The former program director for ACEing Autism, in 2016 she founded Love Serving Autism, the non-profit that provides specialized training in tennis, communication and life skills with children and adults with Autism spectrum disorders and developmental disabilities. She has combined her expertise as a speech-language pathologist in the field of autism and an elite-certified professional with the USPTA to grow tennis opportunities for special-needs individuals.
As the program director for the ever-expanding after-school and community-based Love Serving Autism tennis programs, she serves both youth and adult players in locations such as Palm Beach Gardens, Boca Raton, Jupiter, Greenacres and West Palm Beach. At this year’s USPTA Florida Conference she presented on “The Therapeutic Benefits of Tennis for Individuals with ASD” in line with her mission to increase autism awareness and understanding in the tennis industry.
“Our organization’s mission is aligned with USTA Florida to advocate and support for diversity and inclusion both on and off the tennis court,” she says. “I love working with them and the USTA Florida Foundation because our missions are aligned.”
USTA Florida Exceptional Youth Tennis Provider Award
Kara Borromeo and Lee Pettis of Cutler Bay
Their slogan is, “Play the Sport that Reveals Character”
Playing tennis on a team has long been the gold standard of development for children in the Truth N Tennis Academe. Kara and Lee founded the program in 2013, and soon after the recognitions started rolling in. Kara was presented with the USTA Florida Junior Team Tennis Volunteer of the Year award in 2014, and the pair were named the USTA Florida Volunteers of the Month in 2015.
Former USTA Florida President Nancy Horowitz, an area resident, says, “Truth N Tennis Academe has a wonderful team that works together for the good of the children, stressing life skills and fun, along with providing an ear to listen to whatever comes their way. The children know they are there for them.”
Being there for the children includes volunteering as Junior Team Tennis captains, over the years organizing 139 teams competing in local, sectional and national JTT competition. At the highest levels they have sent teams to the Junior Team Tennis National Championships over the last two years, and at the grassroots level they bring new players into the game through enrolling kids in Net Generation. They also coach kids into beginner Level 8 and 9 tournament competition, and seek out middle and high school beginners while training youth Special Olympics participants.
Their volunteer and character-building efforts extend into the local community in the Village of Palmetto Bay. They and their students participate in holiday charity events; the annual Earth Day celebration; the Run, Walk, and Stroll 2K for Cerebral Palsy; and the Dogs of Summer Adoption and Training Expo, just to name a few. The result, says the pair, is, “Through our instruction we develop a good person who plays tennis. We say, ‘Play the Sport that Reveals Character’ because it best describes us, and we see it every day on the court. We teach our players to have the best sportsmanship, and to be fair and honest on and off the court.”
For information on volunteering in tennis for USTA Florida go to www.ustaflorida.com/volunteers.