2011-05-26 / News

Annual tennis tournament in honor of island teacher

By Geoff Campbell

Teaching and coaching are threads of the same cloth, and by all accounts Roger Chase was exceptionally gifted at both.

The sixth annual Roger Chase Mixed Doubles Tennis Tournament will be held on Saturday, June 5, at the Conanicut Yacht Club tennis courts on Whittier Road.

An English teacher, tennis coach and school principal, Chase first served as a middle school English teacher at Jamestown Elementary School, then as its principal, returning later to his first love, the classroom. Jamestown Elementary housed grades K-8 before Melrose Avenue School was constructed.

Rob Brown, a co-organizer of the event, is the Tennis Committee chairman of the yacht club and perhaps more importantly, one of Chase’s former English students.

Brown and fellow Jamestowner and tournament co-organizer, Steve Heath, both knew Chase well, and each valued the relationship that they had with the man that the tournament continues to honor.

Brown describes Chase as having “a way with people.”

Born John Rogers Chase, “Roger” grew up in Newport and played tennis for De Salle Academy.

An avid and talented tennis player, Chase came up under the watchful eye of local tennis legend Bob Black.

Chase was a resident of Jamestown for more than 35 years and following his life in schools, he became a teaching pro at the yacht club for 15 years. A plaque that honors his love of the game of tennis and his years as a pro at the club was dedicated five years ago this month.

He added that Chase taught tennis every summer of his life following his graduation from college.

Heath said that ironically Chase was considering taking a summer off before his life was cut short at the age of 63 in 2004.

Chase was known for “promoting the game and giving people tennis racquets out of the trunk just to get people playing tennis,” Heath said.

When paddle tennis courts were added to the facilities at the club, Chase became a year-round teacher and coach.

“On a Monday night at 7 or 7:30 he’d just show up and make sure that people were all set, drop off a kit, and fill in as a fourth whenever he was needed,” Heath said. “Roger loved to see people play paddle and tennis.”

Heath said that Chase would be a presence at the court all of the time. “People loved him,” he said.

Following the successful inaugural tournament, Heath was quoted as saying, “Roger would have loved it, players ranging from 10 to 80, playing tennis, having fun, giving it their best shot.”

“Each year the Conanicut Yacht Club is pleased to celebrate Roger’s legacy and to recognize, among many other things, his contributions to improving the tennis program at the club and in the Jamestown community by hosting a fun-oriented tennis tournament that is open to the public,” Brown wrote.

“While Roger’s students in the classroom and on the tennis courts may have sometimes been confused about whether they were working on their grammar or their ground strokes,” he added. “They always appreciated the benefits of his teaching and his passion for the game of tennis.”

Following summers on the court with Chase, Brown went on to play in the number one spot at North Kingstown High School, and then continued to play collegiate tennis at the University of Vermont and the University of London.

The tournament will be played on Saturday only and start at 11:30 a.m. and will include players from all of Newport County.

The unique tournament format, which includes a guarantee main draw and two back draws, insures that every participant will play three matches, according to Brown.

The event, held at the private club, is open to the public adding a unique twist to the tournament.

Former winners include the 2006 women’s pair of Gail Martin and Terry Lefers, the 2007 junior doubles pair of Dan Hansen and Sam Baines, and the 2008 men’s doubles pair of Alexander Cavanaugh and Timothy Sternberg.

The 2010 mixed doubles fi- nals featured a matchup between Timothy Heath and his daughter Sarah against the mother-son pair of Sam and Alex Cavanaugh of Middletown. The Heath duo, who are members of the yacht club but hail from Manhattan, prevailed in a “gritty match,” Heath said.

This year’s matches will take place on the club’s Har-Tru clay courts and players must be dressed in tennis whites. Proper footwear is also required, according to the organizers.

Entries are now being accepted by the tournament organizers but spaces are limited and the entry deadline is June 3 at 6 p.m. Brown said that 16 doubles entries allows for 32 players overall. Refreshments will be served.

The Jamestown Medical Fund will be the recipient of the net proceeds of the tournament, as they have been since its inception. For more information or to enter your team, e-mail Robert Brown at robertkbrown@mac.com.

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