By MARK PATTON NEWS-PRESS SENIOR WRITER
July 9, 2010 6:37 AM
Jerry Beaver built the Santa Barbara Tennis Patrons on a rock – although there were days when it felt like the rock had landed on him.
Beaver, the organization’s founding president, will be inducted into the Patrons’ Hall of Fame during a reception on Saturday at 3 p.m. at the Tennis Club of Santa Barbara, in between the final rounds of the Santa Barbara Open and the USTA Men’s National 50 Hard Courts.
“This began as an experiment,” Beaver said, “but a lot of people wound up getting involved.”
Beaver and several other tennis players were surveying the construction of the Santa Barbara Tennis Club when the idea for a junior tennis organization was concocted.
“There’s a rock up there in front of courts 3, 4 and 5, and we were standing there when somebody said, ‘You know, we’ve got to get a junior tennis program going,’ ” Beaver recalled. “Somebody said, ‘Well, Beaver, you’ve got three little kids – why don’t you take it on?’ ”
Little did he know that the organization that he’d help start in April of 1971 would now be running five USTA junior tournaments, four club junior events and even four adult tournaments. The Patrons run the Santa Barbara Open, which is in its 74th year.
Beaver expected “about 30-to-40 kids” to register when he started the Patrons’ junior tournament series in the summer of 1971.
“We wound up having 150 kids enter,” he said. “We caught it at the right time. Tennis took off during the 1970s.”
His sons – David, Philip and John – all played in the Patrons for many years. Beaver even got his wife, Helene, involved.
“All of a sudden, this thing was overwhelming,” he said. “There was no committee or anything. I said, ‘I need help! So Helene very graciously quit her paying job to take over as secretary of the Patrons.”
“It really mushroomed once the kids started telling their friends,” Helene added.
Beaver played tennis for many years until vision problems forced him to put his racket away two months ago.
“I hated quitting tennis,” Beaver said. “But I’m very pleased that the Patrons is still going strong after 39 years.”