Intermountain / Colorado

HighFIVE: Pat Zuraski

Rachel Morley | March 31, 2023


A long-time Colorado Springs official, Pat Zuraski was recognized by the USTA with the Woodie Walker C.A.R.E. Award


There are more than 2,000 USTA Certified tennis officials in the US and only four are recognized annually for their excellence and service to officiating the sport of tennis. In 2022, one of those four was Colorado Springs’s own Pat Zuraski!


Being a tennis official had never been on Pat’s radar until 2001. He grew up in a small town in Wisconsin where he was introduced to tennis by a high school teacher. Pat says, “He provided me with some basic instruction that I attempted to put to good use on our one court – a patch of asphalt located in a back corner of the school – that had a sort of rudimentary net stretched between two posts.” 


Pat continued to play recreationally while at the University of Wisconsin and then as his career as a civil engineering professor took him to the University of Akron and LSU, before he ended up at the United States Air Force Academy in 1995. Pat embraced the tennis scene in Colorado Springs and played leagues and local tournaments. It was at one of those tournaments, in 2001, that Pat was approached by an official. Pat says, “He asked whether I had ever given any consideration to becoming an official. I replied that I hadn’t, but I did make note of his contact information. Shortly thereafter, I decided to give that guy a call.” Pat points out that “that guy” was Don Willsie, a 2013 recipient of a prestigious USTA national award, as well as a 2016 Colorado Tennis Hall of Fame inductee.


Pat started as a roving umpire at the grassroots level, working local tournaments, high school competition and Colorado District events. After Pat had some experience, Don asked him to chair a tournament semifinal match at Memorial Park in Colorado Springs. He remembers thinking, “What, you want me to do that? I don’t know how to do that!” But he did it and recalls that “it went OK, not perfect, but OK.” 


Having gained proficiency at the local level, Pat began to seek opportunities for getting involved in calling lines on the USTA Challenger Tour. Some assignments came along, and his outstanding efforts were rewarded with his first opportunity to be a line umpire at the 2010 US Open, which is still his fondest memory of officiating. He continued to work the Open through 2019.


Pat believes that one of the most important aspects of officiating is staying “fresh” regarding the rules of tennis. “An official must continually review the rules, not only at the beginning of a new season, but also throughout a season, because there’s such a variety of “issues” that may arise from one match to the next. Players deserve a high level of performance in this regard.” 


It is this kind of respect for the players and the sport that contributed to Pat being the 2022 recipient of the USTA’s Woodie Walker C.A.R.E. Award which honors an official who makes a difference in the sport of tennis by helping others succeed, maintaining the quality of officiating and the integrity of the game, and by earning the respect of others, on and off the court. 


“I have discovered that the best part of officiating is having the opportunity to assist new officials in advancing along whatever paths they have chosen for themselves – calling lines, roving, or college tennis. With other members of the Colorado Tennis Umpires Association (of which Pat is the Treasurer), I have been involved in the development of written guidelines for new officials. In addition, we have created a sequence of three clinics that prepare prospective chair umpires for stepping into college tennis.”


Since 2021, most higher-level tournaments in the US use Hawk-Eye Live for line calls, so these days, Pat particularly enjoys chairing college tennis matches. He says “It requires a sustained focus to stay on top of what is happening during a match. It’s also exhilarating to be a part of the atmosphere that accompanies college tennis. It’s very rewarding when the players come to your chair at the end of match to shake your hand and signal to you – with a look, or comment, or both – that they appreciated participating in a match that was well-officiated.”


Colorado is fortunate to have such committed officials like Pat. So, the next time you are on the court with an official, give them a smile or a handshake – or both. 

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