PTPC - A Golden Tale of 50 Years

The Pentwater Tennis Club – founded in 1973, celebrated our 50 year history in 2023. This included a Golden Anniversary Gala event on Thursday, July 27 at Lincoln Hills Banquet Center in Ludington. The event honored Walt Urick for his incredible 50 years of service, as well as our past presidents and (36) charter members. Steve Howe captured our very rich, proud history in a meaningful twelve minute video that can be viewed in the adjacent window. A photo gallery of the Gala Event is available for viewing here, and a gallery of Historical Photos is available here.

Steve Howe's - A 50 Year Journey

Club History


    The story starts with the genesis of tennis in Pentwater around 1918.  The details found in the ‘early scenes’ paragraph below are based on recollections of an esteemed former member—Harold Shaw, which were written down for historical purposes more than 30 years ago. We are looking for additional historical details, photos or videos that we can incorporate into our anniversary celebration. If you have something that you would be willing to share, please contact us.   Thanks!



     Harold Shaw recalled how a group of men started playing competitive doubles in the afternoons on a private court belonging to Girard and Olive Sands. It was believed to be the only tennis court between Muskegon and Traverse City. He remembered showing up every day at the age of 15 with his racket in hand, and laying in the grass to watch the men. His hopes of being asked to play were realized whenever one of the regulars were either late arriving, or unable to attend. Soon, there were other gentlemen wanting to join the group. The Pentwater Garden Club recognized that tennis was a growing sport, so in the early 1930’s they decided to construct a court at the North end of the village. As the level of participation increased, the village itself sensed a need to better support tennis in the community. The village eventually constructed a second adjacent tennis court, and convinced the Garden Club to deed their existing court over to them. When the men’s group grew to more than 30 regular players on the two municipal courts, complaints started to circulate that they were monopolizing the courts. Members of the men’s group began to discuss how to fill the need for more tennis courts in Pentwater.


     In 1972, a three person steering committee was established to explore the formation of a new private tennis club in Pentwater. Harold Husband, Rich Franke and George Green worked together on a plan, and they soon discovered an opportunity to purchase a parcel of land from Ed Moore. They figured the plot was large enough to construct four tennis courts. Their next step was determining how to finance construction. In addition to accepting donations from charter members, they surmised that at least (25) annual memberships would be required at a cost of $250, along with a bank mortgage. They also knew the new club would require a formal organizational structure.


     They asked a young aspiring attorney named Walt Urick to provide legal services to create a new corporation called “Pentwater Tennis Club“. Walt agreed to complete the real estate and bank mortgage transactions, and then he assisted in creation of a new set of bylaws. In lieu of payment for his legal services, he happily accepted a complimentary charter membership. As a side note, Walt now says that his getting involved in the club was one of the better decisions he’s ever made. 50 years later, Walt is still serving the club! His current role is as a Board member, and Treasurer. Talk about commitment! Walt’s spirit of volunteerism towards the club over this extended period has been nothing short of amazing!! You are encouraged to read more about Walt’s experience as a member of the PTPC for the past 50 years. He was featured in a “Pentwater This Week” news article back in 2010, where he told the story of how membership has impacted his life in so many ways.



     In May of 1973, construction of the first two tennis courts began. Rich Franke, Harold Husband, and George Green became the first set of club officers, along with a list of (35) founding members. You can view a list of the Pentwater Tennis Club’s Charter Members here.  The courts were officially christened for play by Rich Franke on July 4, 1973, and so started the tradition of summer tennis at the Pentwater Tennis Club (see news photo attached). How could they have known the extent to which in the decades that followed, how such large numbers of future club members would value their friendships each summer on the tennis courts (and eventually on the pickleball courts). An additional 2.5 acres of land were later purchased, where four additional tennis courts were constructed, along with a clubhouse structure that accommodates a kitchen, two bathrooms and a storage area. A well pump house was also constructed on the property. 




Often, the stronger players would take the weaker ones and work with them. 
The club’s founders laid the groundwork for widespread participation in daily organized play. Their chosen format was very inclusive. It emphasized the relationship aspect of getting everyone together in a social tennis setting,
 above the competitive aspects of tennis. The men’s group included leaders like Rich Franke, Doc Mullins, Doc Nelson and Ray Dumas, and they believed that mixing it up with players of all skill levels together on the same courts was key to the early success of the club. They felt it instilled a level of intimacy across the entire group. Walt Urick was quoted as saying “Bill McCall and Ray Dumas helped me bring my game up to passable, and then it really started to become fun.” The higher rated players invested in helping the less skilled participants improve their games. This is a tradition that continued for decades, and it’s very similar to how the club has managed organized play for pickleball in recent years.

A spirit of camaraderie was established early in the club. 
As the culture of t
he new club was taking shape, a spirit of camaraderie was always king. When certain participants in the men’s group liked to fish or play golf in the mornings, and some of the ladies enjoyed going to the beach in the afternoons, they settled on having the ladies play in the mornings, and the men in the afternoons. No doubt, some of the men would have preferred to play at an earlier time, but sacrifices were made for the greater good, and it never became a point of contention. Mark Smith, who was once President of the club was quoted as saying “the camaraderie is the most fun aspect of the club. We have picnics, parades and potlucks. It’s one big happy family. The men hang out with the women, and the adults hang out with the kids. When my father got alzheimers in 1997, everybody banded together to help him. Up until he died in 2006, they would lead him onto the courts and help him play. People come from all over the country, from San Diego to NYC, and they all look out for each other. What other tennis club does that?”


The annual tennis rivalry with Ludington is a fun tradition that was established early on. 

The longstanding, annual “Broken Toe” tennis tournament matches tennis players from the PTPC against players from the Ludington area. The men’s tournament started in 1974, when the Pentwater men’s group got together with players from the Ludington area and organized an annual doubles tournament. The event received its name when, early on, Ludington player Jack Shillinger donated a trophy to “add some class” to it. Unfortunately, he broke his toe that year and wasn’t able to compete for the trophy, and the tournament name was born. The ladies tournament was added in 1995. Each year, the winner is awarded the coveted “Broken Toe Trophy” that comes with annual bragging rights. Both women and men of all skill levels are welcome to participate. This fun event encourages fan attendance and cheering sections for both teams! The host team provides lunch. Pentwater and Ludington split the trophy in both 2021 and 2022. The big news in 2022 was the Pentwater Men prevailing over Ludington for the first time in a good many years. We hope to see you on July 8 in Ludington to find out: WHO’LL WIN THE TROPHY IN 2023? The event is played at the Ludington High School Tennis facility. It’s scheduled this year on Saturday, July 8, 2023 at 8:30 AM. If you’re a member of PTPC, we hope that you and members of your family will consider becoming a participant to help us win the trophy!


From the beginning, the club has emphasized a commitment to getting young people involved in tennis.
Dick Snell is credited with planting the seeds of this charge. Dick had played varsity tennis at U of M, and soon after being active in the club’s formation, Dick started giving group lessons to youth who were then lucky enough to be summer residents of Pentwater. He introduced them to the sport, and encouraged their parents to take an interest. Many signed up for Dick’s lessons on Tuesday’s and Thursday’s, and their parents came to watch. The culture of juniors tennis continues in the form of our
annual Youth Tennis Clinic each July, which is presided over by tennis pro Larry Brown. He’s been doing a tremendous job of organizing the event for many years, and he’s well known for his ability to instill a love for tennis in our youth. He’s supported each year by a committed group of adult volunteers who’ve come to view the event as a highlight of their summer season. Summer residents  are invited to register their young children or grandchildren for participation in the clinic. Membership is NOT a requirement.


     Recognizing the fast emerging popularity of pickleball, the club’s first pickleball tournaments were organized during the 2019 and 2020 seasons by Jim & Jeri Kett and Ron & Jan Gooding. Despite the limitation of temporary nets and taped pickleball lines on tennis courts 1 & 2, our active tennis members wholeheartedly embraced the sport. The PTPC Board of Directors began discussing the possibility of supporting a permanent pickleball court setup. They understood the club’s rich tennis heritage, but widely perceived it as a moment of critical mass. The Board decided unanimously that the club’s future should be hitched to both sports. 


     A decision was made to start a capital campaign in 2020 predicated on two of our existing tennis courts being converted into six permanent pickleball courts with fencing. The financial response from membership exceeded expectations, and the project moved forward. Construction began early summer of 2021. The legal name of the club was changed to “Pentwater Tennis and Pickleball Club”, and a new sign was commissioned. Ron & Jan Gooding took on a major leadership role in the organizational efforts around pickleball (tournaments and daily play). Thanks to their tireless supervision, and the many efforts of many volunteers, pickleball at PTPC has become a tremendous success! The courts have received an immense amount of use these the past two summers, and our club has been blessed with a healthy & robust membership roll.  


Thanks to the generosity of our membership, the club has benefited from major facilities projects completed between 2020 and 2022 as follows:  

A major capital campaign launched in 2020 raised ∼$100K for the improvements listed below:
> Repurposed two tennis courts into six individually-fenced pickleball courts;  
> Rebuilt tennis courts 3 & 4, which were dug up and replaced with brand new asphalt with painted surfaces;  
> Resurfaced tennis courts 5 & 6;  
> Refreshed clubhouse facilities with new paint, flooring and wall art;  
> Expansion of gravel parking lot;  
> Name change to the “Pentwater Tennis and Pickleball Club”.

A separate campaign launched in 2022 raised ∼$23K for cement work listed below:
> 4’ sidewalk around the pickleball courts;
> 20’ x 40’ pickleball patio staging area (total dimension) 
> 4’ walkway connecting the gates of our two tennis court areas (lower and upper)
> 4’ walkway connecting the clubhouse patio to the tennis walkway;
> 4’ walkway connecting the clubhouse patio to the pickleball patio staging area.

A campaign in 2023 resulted in the purchase of a new shed for storage purposes, which was set into place near the pickleball courts in October. 


    The club started with approximately (35) charter member units at the Club’s inception, to around (92) when the 2020 capital campaign was launched, and then we arrived at the current (154) member units in March of 2023. Since our family memberships include both halves of each couple, the current number of discrete members is calculated to be (230). As we approach the 2023 season, it’s been gratifying to witness how tennis and pickleball has brought together so many summer residents of Pentwater. The Board of Directors is monitoring to ensure that our facilities can support the growing membership roll. There’s a realization that expansion could be around the corner. The future looks bright, with room to add courts on the existing footprint, or the option to acquire additional land. 


     A major element of our 50th Anniversary commemoration in 2023, was celebrating those who had donated so much of their time and resources to advance the club across an extended period. PTPC’s Memorial Plaque honors many of these individuals, a list of which can be found here. We can never repay the many beloved contributors from bygone times, but our members have beautifully demonstrated the concept of paying forward. Their generosity and spirit of volunteerism have been unwavering in recent years. SignUpGenius has made it much easier for PTPC members to see how they can help in the effort. All are encouraged to either investigate our sign up page, speak to one of the committee chairpersons, or contact us to find out where help is needed.