Bob Bundy Helps Shape Topeka Tennis Community
“I’ve been active playing and promoting tennis for over 55 years in the Topeka area. I love the game and want to share it with as many people as I can.”
Those few words, “playing and promoting tennis,” sum up an incredible list of things that Bob Bundy has been a part of throughout his tennis career. He has taken the court as a successful USTA player and captain, participated in developing local tennis players and facilities, led the Topeka Tennis Association, and most importantly, made lifelong friends and memories along the way. To recognize these accomplishments, Bundy has been named a Gold Star winner.
Bundy grew up in Ottawa, Kansas, and left a mark in Ottawa High School’s athletic history. He was a starting football player, a point guard on the basketball team, a baseball player, a pole vaulter and a sprinter, ending his career with a collection of eight varsity letters. From there he attended Ottawa University, where he competed as a starting running back on the football team. He even made time to participate in basketball and track, as well as graduate with honors. Three months after graduation, Bundy was called to active duty in the Air Force, where he served for three years.
“That’s what delayed me all that time from starting tennis,” Bundy said.
After returning from his service in the Air Force, Bundy took up tennis through the community that was growing in Topeka.
“It was a natural way for me to keep going out and being competitive,” Bundy said. “When I got started, I played in all of the local tournaments and the ones around Topeka. There weren’t any USTA Leagues at that point, of course, so I played tournaments and I played singles, doubles and mixed doubles.”
In 1974, Wood Valley Racquet Club opened in Topeka, providing local players with indoor courts to continue playing through the winter season. Bundy was one of the first 15 people to join the club.
As he became more involved with the tennis community, Bundy saw many opportunities to make a difference. One of the most notable is his contributions to the construction of a clubhouse at Kossover Tennis Center in Topeka.
“The city put in nine courts at Kossover. They said if we put up $50,000 to build the clubhouse, they would match that, so I helped raise $25,000 in donations from friends,” Bundy said. “The day they broke ground, I had a shovel in my hand. That was probably the highlight of my tennis career.”
Although Bundy’s roots within the Topeka tennis community run deep, he is most known for his extraordinary work as a league captain. For the past 28 years, Bundy has served as captain for more than 100 teams, impacting more than 1,000 players, and he hasn’t slowed down much.
“I’m still captain of at least three teams a year. I’m 81 now and I plan on still going,” Bundy said. “It keeps me mentally sharp. As captain, you have to find the players, sign them up, and all year long you have to set up practices and make sure they come. There’s a whole range of things that keep you mentally stimulated, and it gives you a reason to get out of bed in the morning.”
Bundy has led a successful career as captain, taking almost 20 teams to nationals. But he doesn’t count the trophies as the greatest successes.
“Over the years, I’ve gotten a lot of people started, and a lot of people that had played before got back into leagues,” Bundy said. “That’s one of the highlights for me- getting as many people as we can. It’s certainly a sport you can play all your life.”
One of the channels Bundy has created for gathering league players is a group fondly called the “Bundy Bums.” For more than 30 years, these players gathered at Wood Valley (now Genesis- Wood Valley) on Tuesday nights for some friendly doubles competition.
“That helped me develop a lot of good players, too, and I was able to play them on USTA teams,” Bundy said. “It also gave those guys a way to keep active in the winter and start playing on a competitive league.”
Bundy’s leadership skills have taken him far in tennis, but they’ve also served him well off the court. He has led a colorful career through investments, sales and entrepreneurship. Among his most prideful accomplishments: the 1974 establishment of the KTPK country radio station and his role as president for the Jayhawk Boy Scouts, which has spanned nearly 50 years.
Bundy has received several USTA awards for his contributions to the game, including the Outstanding Contributor to USTA League Tennis in Kansas in 2015. Despite his remarkable successes on and off the court, Bundy remains humble about his work and reminds us that no successes are reached alone.
“I had a lot of people help me with all of this,” Bundy said. “The players and everybody- we all worked together. So, I certainly don’t want to take all the credit. That’s the thing I’ve loved about starting all these tennis teams- the friends you make. Many of the people I met, we’re still friends and always will be.”
USTA Kansas is proud to recognize Bundy with the Gold Star Award, a program celebrating 100 years of USTA Missouri Valley. You can check the official list of section winners here.