My first US Open was in 1961. The Open was held in the arena at Cobo Hall. This was the first event that was ever held in the Cobo arena. In fact, they only had chairs in the lower level of the arena. Being only 15, my main focus was on the junior players. I remember seeing Ronald Hobson & Richard Jackson from Newport News, Virginia. I also remember seeing Bernie Bukiet & Bobby Fields warming up with Bernie hitting his beautiful forehand drive against the retrieving chopping of flashy of Bobby Fields. In the men's doubles first round we were pitted against Marty Reisman & Houshang Bozorgzadeh.
This is the same arena that hosted the USA verses China match on April 14, 1972. That was the match where I defeated a kind Liang Ge Liang. This match was featured on ABC's Wide World of Sports. This arena was also the venue for the first rendition of Martin Luther King's famous "I have a Dream" speech.
In 1962, the US Open was held in the famous St. Nicholas Arena in New York City. My dad had told me that if I won the Grand Rapids city championship, he would bring me to New York for the Open. After I won the city championship at 16, he held to his promise. I remember that it was at this event that my dad told me to watch Sol Schiff play doubles. That was a very helpful hint for my doubles career. It was also here that Connie won her first national title by winning the junior miss crown over a very young Patty Martinez.
I played in every open till 1974 except for the 1967 Open in San Diego. That year Connie & I were both #1 on the USA team to Stockholm Sweden. We had to pay our way to the World Championships so there was no money left for the trip to San Diego. M. Fukushima & Cheung Yeoug Kim were in the men's finals so I probably would not have contended for the prizes anyway.
During these years, Connie & I each won our respective gender doubles championships three times. We also won the mixed doubles crown four times.
Keep in mind that most of these were during the DJ Lee era where titles were hard to come by. Connie capped everything off by winning the women's singles crown in 1971.
After a four year layoff, I returned to competition but never contended for an Open title. Todd's first Open was in 1982 where at 8 his first opponent was 6 year old Eric Owens. We had 5 years where a group of us from Grand Rapids drove nonstop to Miami to play in the Open there. Many of the worlds top players played in the Miami Opens.
One of the biggest thrills was being in charge of the main matches at the 1990 US Open in Baltimore. Jan-Ove Waldner won the singles & commented that the tournament was well run. The Open was run concurrent with the World Veterans' championship. The Veteran event was the event where there was major chaos. There were 2,000 participants which called for more than we could handle.
In 2010 & 2012 I was able to help encourage the effort to bring the Open to Grand Rapids. We have been able to get major support in the way of sponsors, volunteers and media attention. The final session of the 2010 event could not have gone over better if you tried to orchestrate it. In 2012 the ITTF Junior Circuit event was held in conjunction with the Open.
We want to encourage everyone to consider coming to the Open in 2014. We are always trying to raise the bar & have many new plans for this year. 22 weeks to go. Start your plans now.