Waters, Family Division Make Good Partners

By John Packett, RTA Contributing Writer

Waters, Family Division Make Good Partners

RICHMOND– For the majority of his life, Hugh Waters III either played or promoted the game of tennis.

As his daughter, Margie Ray, put it, “His goal was to teach everybody in Richmond how to play tennis.”

Back in the 1970s, Waters and Ward Hamilton tried to do just that when they converted an old warehouse in the West End into the Richmond Tennis Academy and gave lessons to anyone interested in the sport.

A decade or so later, Waters put together what he called “The World’s Largest Tennis Tournament,” which consisted of some 2,000 participants who played on courts all over the city, concluding with the championship match at the old Arena.

Waters enjoyed putting together the Family Division of the city tournament, which includes father, mother, son, and daughter duos, as well as husband and wife teams.

Waters passed away last April, so it is fitting that the 2018 version of the event, scheduled for May 12 at Byrd Park, has been renamed the Hugh Waters Memorial Family Tennis Championships.

“I think he would be so honored,” said his widow, Paddi Waters. “More than anything, that [family] tennis was important to him.”

Paddi pointed out that her husband got everybody in his family involved in the game.

“He had Barbara [his first wife, who died of cancer] playing,” said Paddi. “He had [daughter] Druanne playing for a high school team. He just thought it was a family sport.”

Waters’ son, Hugh Waters IV, captured the state singles title in 1982 and the city singles championship in 1983.

Margie Ray played several times in the affair with her father and is planning to play with her husband, Chip, this year.

Ray and her dad also played in two United States Tennis Association national tournaments, winning a bronze medal (third place) on one occasion.

“He ran the same event for so long,” said Ray. “I think that showed how much it meant to him to have families playing together.”

Waters III and his family received four separate family-of-the-year awards.

Waters III was running Raintree Swim and Racquet Club when he was named the Mid-Atlantic section family of the year in 1984. In 1999, he received the Florida section and national USTA family of the year award.

Topping it all off was the Florida section and the U.S. Professional Teachers Association achievement award in 2001.

Ray said having the tournament named after him is something that Waters would probably enjoy, but wouldn’t make a big deal out of it.

“I think he would be embarrassed but incredibly proud,” said Ray. “He wasn’t looking for recognition in these things but it would reinforce that he worked hard all his life to promote tennis and certainly promote the family events.”

This year, in addition to the usual father-son, father-daughter, mother-son, mother-daughter, and husband-wife categories, tournament officials have added a new team option of an open combo, where participants can play with siblings, grandkids or nieces-nephews.

Former city champion Ed Butterworth tries to play in the family division with his son, Hatcher, every year, while his wife, Leslie, has played with their daughter, Audrey. Butterworth also used to play in the tournament with his dad.

Butterworth said he thought it was a nice way to honor Waters.

“It meant a lot to me and it meant a lot to other families that he helped for many years,” said Butterworth. “My dad still comes and watches me and Hatcher. Different generations.

“That’s what pretty neat about the event, there’s no age limit. You have dads and sons of all ages out there.”

In addition to playing, Ray will be helping to run the family event, keeping the Waters family in the mix.

Ray said the tournament brings families together.

“He felt it was a great sport for everybody, one that you could play all your life,” said Ray.

Ray said she, Druanne and Paddi were planning to represent the Waters family at the event.

Westwood Racquet Club named its mixed member-guest tournament in Waters’ honor four years ago.

“But I like the family division being named after him better at the city tournament,” said Waters IV.

Mercedes-Benz is the overall sponsor of the city tournament, which is presented by the Richmond Tennis Association.

Entry fees are $13 per player and the deadline is May 10. To register, go to richmondtennis.org and click on the link to the Mercedes-Benz Greater Richmond Tennis Championships, then find the Hugh Waters Family Championships.