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Missouri Valley / Iowa

Tennis Professional Bunny Bruning Continues to Inspire Through Tennis

Andrea Gallagher | June 01, 2022

June is LGBTQ Pride Month and we are profiling longtime Iowa tennis pro, Bunny Bruning.


Growing up in sunny California, Bunny Bruning started playing tennis in the San Diego area, and turned pro at age 17, touring for nine years on the WTA circuit in the 1970’s and 1980’s. She competed in the main draws of all four grand slams. Though it was a grind, she doesn’t regret her decision to go pro at such a young age.


“It was the best of times and the toughest of times, but would never trade that time for anything,” she said.”


Bruning came to Iowa in 1984 to work at the Wakonda Club in Des Moines where she helped develop the junior tennis program. She has also worked at numerous other tennis facilities over the years, while maintaining her position at the Wakonda Club as the tennis director.

“Teaching has become more and more fun every year,” she said. “As I age, I learn more about everything which transfers to teaching and enjoyment.”


She’s also active in USTA Iowa and started the Central Iowa Tennis Alliance. She’s a former president of the USPTA for the Missouri Valley Division, spent more than 15 years on the Missouri Valley USPTA board, is a school trainer for the Iowa District and a USPTA Master Professional. She also held office as a USPTA National Vice President from 2009–2011 On top of all that, she also volunteers for many local organizations. 


“Over the years she has worked with Special Olympians, inner city youth, wheelchair players and team oriented juniors,” said John Terpkosh, USTA Tennis Service Representative. “As a teaching pro, Bunny has selflessly given time, finances and encouragement so everyone she encountered found some success with tennis.”


Bunny has been with her partner, Marla, for 30 years. They were introduced by a mutual friend and never looked back.They got married a month after same-sex marriage became legal in Iowa in May, 2009. Marla is a vice principal and also a USTA referee as well.


“When we got married, people asked how I felt,” she recalled. “It was difficult to define. It was a wonderful day, yet I felt mostly full of responsibility, to help others along their path and to show the world who we are. It’s not about being gay or white or female or an immigrant. Character and leadership are important, how I serve others and how I lead with my heart.”

In 1999, President Bill Clinton declared June “Gay and Lesbian Pride Month.” Since then, Presidents Barack Obama and Joe Biden have followed suit. The month commemorates the Stonewall Riots, which occurred in June, 1969, when the Stonewall Inn was raided in New York City. 


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