Tennis Is About More Than Winning for Cape Cod’s Bach
DENNIS PORT, MA - There’s no doubt Peter Bach has lived a full life. Since attending Princeton University in the mid 1960s, he has been a true leader. He’s moved all across the country while serving as a minister, teaching and playing tennis, earning his doctoral degree and owning and operating a bed and breakfast while always leading by example.
Now 75, and living in Dennis Port, MA on Cape Cod, Bach has one of the best full-time jobs he could ever ask for: tennis player and organizer. The quick-witted, tennis-obsessed Bach calls Mid-Cape Athletic Club in Yarmouth his home base. There, he organizes a group of more than 50 seniors called ‘The Menace’ who meet five to six times a week to play competitively.
“I had to give up playing competitively when I was younger while moving around, but one of the reasons my wife and I wanted to move to Cape Cod was because of Mid-Cape and what a great facility it is. This has really been a dream come true for playing competitive tennis,” Bach said.
Bach doesn’t just play, but he is the glue that holds the group together. He sends out schedules and calendars, “ask emails” to learn everyone’s preferences for the upcoming week and organizes post-match social gatherings and parties. While the social aspect of the group has taken a recent hit due to the pandemic, the competitive spirit in everyone, including his nine 80-and-over players, has remained constant.
“I’m proud of improving my backhand slice and maintaining a certain joy in being out there and having a ball,” Bach said. “I tell the group, ‘you’re never a finished product as a tennis player,’ an image I often used in my ministry. It’s truly a highlight watching these guys grow and improve in tennis and seeing this group become a community.”
The feelings of admiration are mutual among those who know him.
“Peter stands out for his love of tennis and his support of his players both on the court and off. He displays great sportsmanship, which flows to his players. He is a fantastic leader,” said Barbara Healey, USTA New England Local League Coordinator for Cape Cod.
Bach lays the foundation for the group and always takes his players’ wishes and needs into consideration. He is unwavering with his one rule however: “There’s always room for one more.” Bach is welcoming to all players and embraces them with open arms. Within the group, he even created a Rookie of the Year award, which he gives annually to one newcomer.
“This really feels special to me. It’s an opportunity to create a sense of worth in people,” Bach said. “We have some wonderful guys just starting in tennis who came from careers in skiing, basketball and hockey, and it’s been a pleasure to be with them. I’ve never turned anyone down.”
For five summers from 2015-2019, Bach also captained and played for a 65 & Over USTA League team out of Mid-Cape, appropriately named the Clodhoppers. Defined as a clumsy or awkward person, Bach describes his Clodhoppers as having to be comfortable with the fact that they could not run all over the court anymore and would hope the ball would come to them.
The team did not achieve much on-court success. In fact, they went 5-39 over that span and dropped their first 17 matches. However, it wasn’t for the reasons you may think.
For their first four years in existence, the Clodhoppers had only a single opponent in their local league. The problem was, that opponent was three-time New England Sectional Champion and 2019 National Champion, Outer Cape Stripers, from Willy’s Gym in Eastham, MA.
“It can't be denied that we dominated in those five years, but it was due mostly to the fact that we had unusually strong teams rather than the fact that the Clodhoppers had weak ones. Quite a few teams we met at Sectionals were no better than the Clodhoppers,” said Stripers Captain, Jim Bisceglia.
The Clodhoppers finished 2-38 overall against the Stripers and essentially served as their tune-up for Sectionals each year.
Despite the lopsided record, Bach always stayed positive and pushed his players to persevere. That perseverance ultimately paid off, when in the final match of the 2016 season, the Clodhoppers earned their elusive first victory against the Stripers.
“It took us a couple years, but we finally did it. We left Willy’s that day and honked the horn all the way down Route 6 to Dennis back to my house,” Bach said. “We had the windows down and played ‘60s music. If people didn’t know us, they would've thought we were having a marriage ceremony with all the excitement. It was nice to know we were tennis winners for a change.”
“We had great matches with the Clodhoppers and good sportsmanship always prevailed. We all took it seriously, but I cannot recall even one untoward moment in any of the matches. The respect and affection Peter's players have for him is palpable.” Bisceglia added. “Many of their players have become friendly with ours' and we have played with many of them as teammates and opponents in friendlies and in other USTA divisions.”
And that’s what it ultimately comes down to for Bach. The competition is a part of it, but it’s the relationships, celebrations and memories that have made his teams and leagues over the years so enjoyable.
“We treat the whole experience like a camp. We just want to have a really good time and improve our tennis,” Bach said. “Hopefully after COVID-19, we can get back to what we specialize in, which is going out for lunches and celebrating our players for age and other milestones in their lives.”
Bach continues to play six times a week and shows no signs of letting up.