50 years of dominance
B.B. Branton/Special to USTA Southern | September 20, 2017
Chattanooga school's team loaded with stars
"I look at the 1967 team as platinum."
Chattanooga school's team loaded with stars
(Thanks to Baylor School which provided photo and historical information. In black and white photo above: Southern Rotary and National Interscholastic champs. Front row, from left: Joe Garcia, Rick Mackay, David Dick. Back row: Roscoe Tanner, Tommy Craig, Buzz Willett and coach Sunny Sommers. In color photo: Pem Guerry, Zan Guerry, Wesley Cash.)
In Chattanooga, Tenn., above the banks of the Tennessee River, sits a prep school which, in 1967, had arguably the one of the best high school tennis teams in the South.
The school is Baylor and the players in 1967 included 1977 Australian Open champion Roscoe Tanner, 31-time USTA national champion Zan Guerry, 1967 national boys’ doubles champion Tony Ortiz and seventh-grader David Dick would go on to win three National Interscholastic doubles titles.ADVERTISEMENT
In two years, the core of this team would also share the court with Brian Gottfried, who won three Grand Slam doubles titles, whopping totals of 25 singles and 54 ATP World Tour crowns and topped out at No. 3 in the world. He also won two national boys’ titles in 1970.
Three of those players are now enshrined in the ITA Men’s Collegiate Tennis Hall of Fame: Tanner, Gottfried and Guerry. 1972 NCAA doubles champion Tanner rose to No. 4 in the world, pulling in 16 pro singles and 13 doubles. Later, his reputation was tarnished by a series of arrests for not paying child support, writing bad checks and hiding from an arrest warrant.
“I look at the 1967 team as platinum and the 1969 and 1975 teams as gold,” said Wesley Cash, referring to their three national titles. Cash was on the 1975 team, then won SEC No. 1 doubles at the University of Georgia and has 17 USTA gold balls, award to a national champion. The 59-year-old Manker Patten teaching pro captured a pair of USTA age-division Grand Slams and was world 55s doubles champion.
Baylor School tennis alums passed the torch of success and winning from player to player and tennis generation to generation. That tradition continues this year in the girls’ team as Drew Hawkins won her third straight state singles crown. Cash and Pem Guerry, Zan’s brother, won the boys’ doubles from 1973-75. Pat Guerry achieved All-American status at the Sewanee: The University of the South (Tenn.) and volunteered for many years for USTA Southern.
Coached by Ira “Sonny” Sumner, the 1969 team of Tanner and Dick joined with Tommy Craig and Joe Garcia took the national title. Tanner and Dick won the doubles, while Tanner beat childhood friend and Westminster senior Forrest Simmons in an epic three-set singles semis, but lost to Fred McNair in the finals.
Current Baylor teacher Park Lockrow coached the Red Raiders for a decade 1979-88 in which they won 103 straight dual matches from 1979 until crosstown rival McCallie ended the winning streak with a 5-4 decision on April 6, 1988. During Lockrow’s tenure Baylor also won nine Southern Rotary titles and five state championships. Among the stars were Division I All-Americans Mark Styslinger (SMU) and Chuck Coleman (Notre Dame).
Future DI All-American Coleman who helped Notre Dame to a NCAA runner-up finish in 1992 gives coach Lockrow a great deal of credit for his success at Baylor and Notre Dame. “Coach Lockrow (and Bobby Bayliss at Notre Dame) was the perfect coach for me as he taught me discipline (running and weight lifting) and gave me guidance in tennis and academics.
Lockrow said, “I believe we had excellent success in the 1980s due, of course, in part because of talented players, but we were in much better condition than our opponents and we focused on the team’s success more than any individual accomplishments.”
Back in the day, high schools played for national championships. The 1967 team won Baylor’s first while they were still fresh-faced, talented teens and before national and world acclaim achieved in later years.
While Americans across America celebrated the nation’s birthday on July 4, 1967, a quartet of talented tennis players from Baylor School set off their own. The aforementioned Red Raider foursome’s dominance was evident with three players – Zan Guerry, Tanner and Ortiz – reached the singles semifinals. Guerry won the national title which he and Ortiz were doubles winners.
Highlighted by the 50th anniversary of the school’s first team national championship in 1967 – this program, its players and coaches showed tennis dominance for three decades – 1960s, 1970s and 1980s - at the private, all boys (now co-ed) institution that was a military school until 1971.
“Our success in 1967 and in years before and after as many of our alums will tell you was a combination of an outstanding junior program in Chattanooga led for the most part by teaching pros Jerry Evert and Bill Tym, the ability to play at one of the top tennis facilities anywhere in Manker Patten Tennis Center and the exposure of great junior and adult national caliber tournaments held in our city on a yearly basis,” Guerry said.
“We not only played against the best young players in the country each summer, we also were able to watch great adult players from across the South and nation who played in the Tennessee Valley Invitational (now the TVOC) each summer,” he added.
Guerry may be best known to locals by his frequent contributions to tennis facilities in Chattanooga, including the Zan Gurerry Clubhouse at Manker Patten Tennis Club and at the Champions Club in Lupton, Tenn. He was the long-time CEO of Chattem Inc., maker of IcyHot, Gold Bond and other well-known products.
David Dick, who won interscholastic doubles crowns in 1969-70-72, and later played at Georgia echoed what Guerry said stating, “Every day all summer 20-25 junior players city-wide would meet at Manker Patten and play tennis (i.e. junior membership at Manker Patten was $35 a year). And then we would head off to tournaments on the weekends and then back to playing at the club the next week.
“We had a strong team in 1969 and besides the 6-3 win against Westminster in Atlanta playing without Brian Gottfried at No. 2 singles, we won all other matches (including an earlier match against Westminster) 9-0,” said Garcia who would win an interscholastic doubles title with Dick in 1970 and then helped North Carolina win four straight ACC titles.
Another national championship came in 1975. Pem Guerry won singles and he and Cash claimed the doubles. Guerry was dominant losing only one set in each singles and doubles on the way to both titles.
The team also claimed the third straight TSSAA state team title and third straight state doubles crown, while Cash won state singles in 1975 and Guerry claimed state singles in 1974.
“To be the best player you can be you want to gravitate to a winner and a successful program and that was Baylor tennis,” said Cash. “I came to Baylor in the seventh grade just hoping to make the team one day and it’s crazy what I have been able to accomplish with help from so many people who served as role models, coaches and teammates.”
“The Chattanooga junior tennis program was such a big part of tennis success in those 30 years and Baylor was a recipient of much of that talent,” said Pem Guerry.
“Our ability to maintain a great tennis heritage at a high level from era to era came from an unwavering commitment to success and winning.”