Tennis club hits the ton

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But this 100-year-old servant of the game almost didn’t make it past 60.

The Queenstown Tennis Club, which celebrates its centenary tomorrow, hasn’t always operated in the Gardens and at one stage even folded.

These surprising revelations come from two of the club’s life members, Donalda Anderson and Darrell McGregor, who are both in their seventies.

The club started in the Gardens in 1908 when the building it now shares with the bowling club was built.

But born-and-bred Queenstowner Anderson says when she started playing in 1944, the courts were ensconced on a Brecon Street site now occupied by an outdoor mini-golf course.

Then from about 1956 till 1964 the club folded altogether due to a lack of players – Anderson herself says she was busy raising kids then.

Pat Topliss, a former New Zealand junior doubles champion who came here in 1963, revived the club along with Anderson and the late Hazel Reinke.

At this point the club returned to the Gardens, where there were then only two courts.

Anderson suggests the reason she was made a life member was she policed the court’s honesty box and made the club a lot of money.

She says before the Crowne Plaza hotel was built in the early 70s she could spot people on the court from her Hay Street home and if she suspected they were non-payers, she’d pop round to the Gardens in her car.

When she’d tap people for money she got “differing reactions” – “Get stuffed” was a favourite, Anderson says, along with “I’ve lived here all my life so I shouldn’t have to pay”.

Anderson, 74, says she still plays but only doubles on ladies’ day.

The lob’s a favourite shot of hers – “That gets a lot of people”.

Darrell McGregor, who’s had two spells as club president, recalls one year $4000 was collected from the honesty box, due in good part to Anderson’s efforts.

“In those days, Yanks who came to town always seemed to carry a racquet.”

He remembers the club was in great heart in the early 80s, fielding six teams of eight players each in the Vincent competition.

He also used to coach about 40 kids every Saturday at the high school courts, then run a lolly scramble.

“I think that’s what attracted them along.”

Now 79, McGregor plays more bowls than tennis these days but is still capable of a mean shot on the courts.
He describes it as “a backhand spinning drop shot that jumps sideways”.

“I once drove a woman mad with it – she said, “If that’s the way tennis is played, I’ll give it up”.