by Marty James
He is 88 years old and his shoulder gives him all kinds of problems.
But you’re not going to talk Bob Walsh out of slowing down.
He retired from his job at a steel company back in 1988, but he is still going strong with his work in tennis.
He was president of the Napa Valley Tennis Association for 10 years and remains active with the organization, going to board meetings and playing about once a week.
He is the U.S. Tennis Association-Northern California Adult League Local Area Coordinator for Napa, Solano, Sonoma and Mendocino counties.
“I just don’t want to let go,” Walsh said from his home last week. “It just became my second love.”
Walsh has been an advocate for senior tennis, a longtime league volunteer, and community tennis leader. He was involved in developing a USTA league for men’s and women’s players age 65 and over. He was the chairman of a committee that started a league for players age 70 and over.
Walsh, who began playing tennis at Brawley High School (Imperial County) in the ’40s, will be honored for his work and dedication to the game when he is inducted into the USTA Northern California Tennis Hall of Fame.
A brunch and enshrinement ceremony will be held Thursday starting at 10:30 a.m. on the Stanford University campus, the site of this week’s WTA’s Bank of West Classic.
The Class of 2014, elected by a selection committee, also has Rich Anderson, an accomplished junior, collegiate and senior player and respected coach; John Hubbell, respected ATP/WTA coach, college coach and USTA national coach; Bill Maze, a Stanford All-American, ATP title-holder and a collegiate coach of the year; and Susan Mehmedbasich Wright, a national and international champion in both junior and senior tennis, and winner of four Golden Slams.
“To get something like this for just working hard, and really digging in and so on, is really hard to describe,” said Walsh. “I was blown away. I couldn’t believe such a thing, because I’m just a hard worker and had a good time.”
Walsh has served as a member or chair of numerous association committees, including super seniors planning and grievance. He is a frequent volunteer at USTA district and section championships.
“We’ve invited Bob to work as staff at six national league championships as a way of thanking him for all the work he has done to grow tennis at the local level, and to recognize him for his dedication in captaining so many teams over many years,” said Jeanne Lucido, USTA National League manager.
Walsh has been a volunteer, serving the Napa Valley Tennis Association and USTA for 24 years. He has been a captain, a committee chair and a fundraiser.
He has worked tournaments around Northern California, running the desk.
Through a partnership with the Napa Valley Unified School District and city of Napa Parks and Recreation, the NVTA has eight courts at Vintage High School that serves as a public tennis park. The NVTA, founded in 1967, has more than 300 members and maintains the facilities.
The park has a canopy over the bleachers and the NVTA has put in a patio, planted trees and there is a lawn area. The courts were recently resurfaced.
“It’s really quite nice,” said Walsh, who has made his home here for 45 years.
The NVTA participates in the USTA league program. The USTA NorCal League is the country’s largest recreational tennis league, providing organized, structured team matches for more than 30,000 men and women of all ability levels. All league players must be a member of NVTA and the USTA and hold a USTA rating.
The NVTA has received awards for Community Tennis Association of the Year, Outstanding Tennis in the Parks Organization, Facility of the Year, and Outstanding NTRP Tournament of the Year.
In 2011, the Napa Valley Tennis Classic was named tournament of the year.
Walsh is a 1944 graduate of Brawley High who has been playing tennis for 70 years. There have been some years where he hasn’t played much, but it’s still been the game of a lifetime for Walsh, who after retiring from Marwais Steel in Richmond, has done computer consulting work.
In January, Walsh was named as a Champions of Tennis winner by Tennis Industry Magazine.
He received a national award, “Tennis Industry 2013 Champion Advocate of the Year,” for his volunteer service to the tennis industry.
Walsh has also been the recipient of the USTA NorCal Service to Leagues Award, along with awards for Service to Tennis and Service to Seniors.
The Northern California Hall of Fame, founded in 1974 by Elmer Griffin, includes Jeff Borowiak, Rosemary Casals, Phil Cello, Don Budge, Brad Gilbert, Dick Gould, Peanut Louie Harper, Barry MacKay, Larry Stefanki and Tom Stow, just to name a few.
As of 2013, there are 147 individuals who have been honored for their accomplishments as players or for their contributions to the game off the court in Northern California.
A Hall of Fame wall, which includes plaques commemorating the members, has been established in the USTA Northern California Section office at 1920 North Loop Road in Alameda.
Walsh and his wife, Lu, who have been married for 67 years, have three children, three grandchildren and four great grandchildren.