Half a Century of Playing the US Open Started in a Red Mustang and a Road Trip

By Richard Finn | Feb. 05, 2019, 10:56 p.m. (ET)



The year was 1969.

There was a red 1966 Mustang, a buddy and a road trip across the country’s heartland from St. Louis to San Francisco and the U.S. Open

“I have a fond memory of the first one in the summer of 1969 to attend the US Open in San Francisco,” recalled Homer Brown from his home in Birmingham, Ala.

“It was exciting to get on the road and see the country and actually play in my first US Open at a young age and play a great sport that I enjoyed playing at Covenant College in Tennessee,” said Brown.

Since then, Brown has not missed a year playing in the U.S. Open, his iron-man streak reaching a half-century at last year’s tournament in Orlando.

“I always had a concern that something might get in the way, however I tried to make it a priority to at least play in this tournament every year to set a record for attending and playing in any town it would be held,” said the 70-year-old Brown.

Good health, accommodating bosses and finally being able to call his own shots in the office, provided Brown with the opportunities not to miss a U.S. open in the last 50 years.

“I worked for a great oil company Gulf Oil and then BP through most of my corporate years for the first twenty five US Opens and they supported my efforts and enthusiasm,” explained Brown.

“The second 25 years I ran an oil company as COO in Birmingham for a few years and I controlled my time off there. And third, the next 20 years I started BumperNets.

America's First Table Tennis Store and being off for the Open was a must since I was the owner and wanted to promote the sport I really believed in because it had been so good to me through the years,” said Brown.

While details including dates and venue has not been finalized yet for the 2019 U.S. Open later this year, Brown intends to be there to keep the streak going.

“At this point in my life I see no reason to stop the streak going,” said Brown. “Basically the sport has been so good to me by keeping me in good shape and keeping me " Retail Strong " for promoting table tennis everyday at our famous store BumperNets at the Riverchase Galleria in Birmingham.”

Through fifty years of matches and tournaments, the 1974 event in Oklahoma City stands apart as one of his special memories.

“It was very well run and there were so many world class players there too,” recalled Brown. “Besides I had a great tournament and had one my best matches where I had a very long volley and even dropped my racket and still picked it up and kept the volley going and then won the point too. It was pretty cool because there were a couple hundred people watching my exciting match. I also won the Mixed A doubles title with Jean Varker and Men's A Doubles with my good friend Richard Hicks. I actually won 3 beautiful medals that I understand were very expensive.”

It can be easy to find Brown out on the tables during the tournament. He has a distinctive shakehand style with short pips on both side and is known for the "Homer Brown Shuffle," where, when serving, he'll sometimes start a few feet from the table, then shuffle his feet up and down really fast for several seconds as he approaches the table, and then serves.

“The shuffle serve was really a dance shuffle to distract the player and to excite the crowd and a heavy topspin serve short up the middle,” admitted Brown.

‘I kind of brought this serve on by watching the famous boxer Muhammed Ali do his dance during his boxing matches. However, I am also known for the Homer Brown knee special that you can pull up on the internet and find out more by doing a Google on it,” he said.

Brown’s passion for table tennis extends well past U.S. Open tournament week to 365 days a year. The sport has become the centerpiece of his business and community life.

“Yes I have always been very active in promoting table tennis in schools my whole career by doing exhibitions and clinics for schools wherever I lived during my 10 moves in the oil corporate world,” said Brown, whose son Adam was a top junior player and now helps run the successful BumperNets business.

“However, when I made my last move to Birmingham, Alabama to run Vulcan Oil Company I decided as a community outreach for our company we would give tables to some schools and also offer clinics to teach PE teachers how to teach the great sport of table tennis.”

Homer certainly has decades of passion for the sport of table tennis, and is now passing that on to the younger generations. This year 4 Berry Middle School and 1 Spain Park High School student made the trek to Orlando to compete in the US OPEN.  Ben Hartwiger (2164), Matthew Brumbeloe (1677), Logan Cantu (986), Kaushik Dheeravath (1320), Adam Punjani (820). Perhaps sharing this lifetime experience with his new students will inspire a half century journey for them also!