By John Packett, RTA Contributing Writer
RICHMOND– The Country Club of Virginia was established in 1908 on the outskirts of Richmond, near the University of Richmond’s pine-filled campus. Fifteen years later, the club was the site of the first city-wide tennis tournament.
While CCV is nationally renowned for its three, 18-hole golf courses, the club has also developed a reputation for being a showcase for some of the finest tennis players, not only in Richmond but also in the state of Virginia and beyond.
“It was like the mecca of tennis in Richmond, maybe even in the state,” said Lindsay Wortham, three-time women’s singles champion, and a CCV member.
“We had the city and state tournaments. The Virginia-Carolina tournament, the Mid-Atlantic tournament, some of the Hotchkiss Cup matches, the Anderson Cup every four years. All of that stuff was there and it was a big deal. Hundreds and hundreds of people would come and watch.
“I loved growing up and watching all the matches and tournaments there,” she said.
“They had so many major tournaments. I think tennis … was the Country Club of Virginia, for a long, long time.”
For all CCV has meant to tennis in Richmond for nearly a century, the club will be inducted into the Richmond Tennis Hall of Fame during a gala celebration and dinner Oct. 28 at the Westwood Club. For tickets, go to richmondtennis.org.
From the time the Richmond Tennis Association was formed in 1954 to encourage the development and promotion of junior tennis in the area, the Country Club of Virginia has allowed its courts and facilities to be used for various tournaments and matches.
Beginning with Fred Koechlein in 1959 and going through Jim Corn, Hal Burrows, Chris Anderson and Tom Wallace up to the current director of racquet sports Rob Oakes, CCV has always served the tennis community in a first-class manner.
“With all of those pros, whenever we asked anything of CCV, as far as I can remember, they would help us out,” said Lou Einwick, former RTA president and director of the professional indoor tournament for many years.
“Whether it was running the city tournament out there or using their indoor facility when it rained. They helped me by allowing the pro players to have a place to practice when we were unable to get it at the Arena or the Coliseum.
“They were very helpful to us in all respects and have given tremendous support to the RTA and tennis over the years, and are very deserving of this award. They bent over backward to help us in any way.”
The city tournament was started at CCV in 1923 and continued to be there until it moved to Byrd Park in 1967. The tournament in those days featured such champions as Cliff Miller, Bobby Leitch, Del and Bruce Sylvia, O.H. Parrish and Bitsy Harrison.
“It wasn’t just the city tournament, which was born there, but they brought in other tournaments,” said Fred Bruner, former RTA president. “I remember the Virginia-Carolina tournament, where players from all over the world would come.
“The point was all these great players were out there, and you could go out and watch for free. It was kind of like Bill Barnes’ tournament now out at Salisbury, where you can go and see a lot of great players. That’s what was happening at CCV in those days.
“They also used to have the Hotchkiss Cup, which featured the best players from Washington and Maryland,” he said.
“It was the best tennis you could find anywhere around, and it was being played at the Country Club of Virginia.”
Bruner says he can recall playing the city junior tournament at CCV when he was 13 when it was run by Keochlein.
“He started it off by getting everybody together and he read us the riot act,” said Bruner. “He told us if he heard us yelling or raised your voice or if your racket hit the ground, you not only would be kicked out of that tournament but you wouldn’t play in another tournament that year.”
Like Einwick, Bruner praised the club for allowing its indoor courts to be used when rain issues arose during the city tournament.
“They were always great about letting us come over and play the matches indoors,” said Bruner. “In fact, we had several finals there because of the weather being bad. Sometimes we’d start the match at Byrd Park on Sunday and then finish it at the indoor facility.”
Another tournament, the State Indoor Championships, was held at CCV from 1996 to 2010 and featured some of the area’s and state’s top male and female players such as Sean Steinour, Carl Clark, Trevor Spracklin, Romain Ambert, Rachel Gale, Nataly Fleishman and Tatsiana Uvarova.
For 15 years, the State Indoor was considered one of the top tournaments around and was twice named tournament of the year.
“For the time period it was held, that was one of the favorite tournaments for players in the state, if not in the Mid-Atlantic,” said Einwick. The tournament was run by Julie Ogborne, who was director of special events at CCV at the time.
Einwick also pointed out that several college matches were held on the indoor courts, including the University of Virginia vs. Notre Dame (coached by Richmonder Bobby Bayliss), VCU vs. Ohio State and VCU vs. Virginia.
“They have allowed their indoor facility to be used by VCU and the University of Richmond for various things,” said Einwick. “Of course, VCU has their own indoor facility now but the University of Richmond has never had one.”
Today, CCV has a total of 24 courts, including six indoor and 18 outdoor (12 clay and six hard).
The club remains available for the RTA and its programs whenever the need arises. For that reason, and many others during its long and illustrious history of being kind to tennis, the Country Club of Virginia is being honored by the Hall of Fame.
“One of CCV’s core values is to support the spirit of the community and no one serves the Richmond tennis community better than the RTA,” said Oakes. “CCV has a rich tradition of supporting the RTA and we will certainly continue to do so in the future.”