Waters, Family Division Make Good Partners

By John Packett, RTA Contributing Writer

Waters, Family Division Make Good Partners

For most of the years that he was alive, 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 people who played on courts all over the city and wound up with the championship match at the old Arena.

During the latter years of his life, Waters really enjoyed putting together the Family Division of the city tournament, which brings together father-son, mother-daughter, husband-wife, etc., duos in a one-day event.

Whether it was Byrd Park or St. Christopher’s or wherever the tournament set up shop, Waters was there, joking with the parents (most of whom he had taught), encouraging the kids and handing out trophies at the end.

Waters passed away last April 24, so perhaps it is only 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.”

Waters pointed out, correctly, that her husband got everybody in his own family involved in the game.

“You look at his family,” she said. “He had Barbara [his first wife, who died of cancer] playing. He had [daughter] Druanne playing for a high school team. He got them all out there to play. Taught them all how to play. 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.

“I always considered the city tournament to be a premier tournament because it was so tough and all the players were in it,” said Waters IV, who lives outside Asheville, N.C. now. “You win the city tournament, you’re a good player.”

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 USTA 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.”

In that regard, Waters III and his family received four separate family of the year awards.

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

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

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 one – open combo – where you can play with siblings, grandkids or nieces-nephews.

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.

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

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.

“I think it’s really great they’re doing that for Hugh,” said Butterworth. “He was always down there. It meant a lot to me and it meant a lot to other families that he helped for many years. 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.

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

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

In his honor, it would be a wonderful tribute if as many as possible would enter this year’s tournament.

“I think it’s great,” Waters IV said of the accolade for his father. “I know my father did an awful lot. Looking back, there were a lot of other things he did, too, that helped out tennis in general. Any sort of recognition is going to be appreciated.”

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.