USTA announces winners of 2023 officiating awards

Victoria Chiesa | November 16, 2023

The USTA has named Thomas Conter, Denise Alexander and Brian Earley as the 2023 winners of national awards for excellence and service to officiating: the Nicholas E. Powell Award, Woodie Walker C.A.R.E. Award, and John T. McGovern Award, respectively.


The USTA's annual umpire awards ceremony was held virtually Friday, where the trio was presented with their awards by another official who is a member of one of the awards' voting committees. 


“We are fortunate to have talented and dedicated officials such as Thomas, Denise and Brian, who are truly making an impact in growing tennis at both the grassroots and professional levels,” Sean Cary, USTA Managing Director, Competition Operations, said. “Their leadership, work ethic and passion for the game are just a few of the reasons why they’re so deserving of this recognition.”

Nicholas E. Powel Award: Thomas Conter (Colorado Springs, Colo.)

This award, given since 1990, honors excellence in grassroots officiating. The award is given to officials who work primarily at sectional and/or amateur events, have a supportive attitude towards grassroots programs and are positive role models.


For more than 10 years, Conter has been an invaluable asset to officiating in the Intermountain section, not just on the court working, but off the court as a scheduler, assignor and mentor.


Conter's selfless nature has also been a defining characteristic in his officiating career, as he is often the first to volunteer to work an event that's in need of officials, or give up his spot at an event to ensure someone else gains valuable work experience. Over the last 10 years, he has trained nearly 20 new officials in the section.


In his own words: "In one word, for me, it's variety. I love the variety in grassroots tennis."

Woodie Walker C.A.R.E Award: Denise Alexander (Bend, Ore.)

Presented since 2017 and named for longtime US Open chief umpire Phyllis "Woodie" Walker, this award is given to an official who displays characteristics that Walker exemplified in her career: commitment, accountability, respectability and excellence.


An official in the Pacific Northwest section for the last a decade, Alexander has become known for her role as a mentor, helping to guide officials at all stages of their careers. She has been an invaluable resource for new and veteran officials alike as they navigate the certification, training and recertification process, and is always quick to offer her advice, feedback and listening ear to her colleagues and peers at tournaments. 


In her own words: "I think the most important thing ... is being sincere and listening, making sure that both parties have the opportunity to voice their concerns, and then reacting to that responsibly, using the integrity of the rules to come up with the best solution."

Photo by Michael LeBrecht/USTA.

John T. McGovern Award: Brian Earley (Redding, Conn.)

Given to an official with at least 10 years of service, the John. T. McGovern Award honors those who have made exceptional contributions to the profession. The award dates back to 1949, when McGovern himself presented a gold-plated trophy to the official who had contributed the most to umpiring that year. Awarded in perpetuity in his name, it is the USTA's highest officiating honor today.


In a 40-year career in officiating that started as a chair umpire, Earley most famously served as the US Open Tournament Referee for 26 years until his retirement from the position in 2018, ensuring that the tournament was conducted fairly each year and in accordance with all of the written rules, regulations and procedures of tennis. A longtime supervisor on the USTA Pro Circuit as well, Earley also served as an assistant referee at each of the other three majors over the course of his career, including at 25 each at Roland Garros and Wimbledon. 

In his own words: "I appreciate and am honored by this award. ... I looked at the list of previous winners and I went, 'Wow. What an honor to be with all of these folks.' Twenty-six years as a Grand Slam referee is pretty significant, and I'd like to think that it was because I was pretty relatable, and could deal with people at so many different levels. You can do that both on and off the court; you have to do that both on and off the court."


Watch the full 2023 USTA umpire awards ceremony below.

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