By Gregg Bragg, The Island Connection Sr. Staff Writer
Tennis great Roy Barth recalls the grand opening of the Kiawah Island Golf Resort (KIGR) on May 1, 1976. He was hired as and remained Director of Tennis for over 41 years. He managed two tennis centers and 28 courts until he gave his notice some eight months ago. Barth won’t say the “R” word and bristles at the suggestion he’s retired, preferring the new designation: Director of Tennis Emeritus. His court record made him the logical choice to head KIGR’s tennis program.
The San Diego native was a natural qualifying for Jr. Davis Cup play, and remembers a doubles match against Arthur Ashe. “We were both 16. Ashe and his partner were in their 20s, and we took them to 3 sets,” said a still jubilant Barth. He went on to play at the college level for UCLA, earning All American honors twice.
Barth capped off his college career as runner up in the men’s NCAA Division I doubles final in 1968, and turned pro the next year.
Competing in the first round of the 1969 US Open, he found himself down 2 sets to Miguel Olvera.
Barth rallied to win in 5 sets and made it all the way to the fourth round. He also loomed large at the Open in 1973 taking 2 sets from Björn Borg, and took 2 sets off Ilie Năstase in the 1974 Open.
Barth was ranked as high as 8th nationally, 50th in the world, and competed in all 4 Grand Slam tournaments including 2 Grand Prix doubles finals. He was a finalist in the Wimbledon All England Plate in 1970, runner-up at the Pacific Coast doubles Championships in 1970, and won the [Merion] Pennsylvania Lawn Tennis doubles Championships in 1974, to list a few. He left the pro tour in 1975 and joined KIGR the next year.
“I could work from home, but that’s a little confining. I’m in a different office [than I was], come in each morning, have a place to go with a computer, and help with the transition. Reports take a lot of time, managing people, hiring the right people, inventory, facility maintenance, and keeping records. That’s something I learned the hard way; to write everything down. Say you want to purchase another ball machine. You have to look at how much revenue we brought in to justify the expense, so that’s the type of information you need to keep track of.
“That’s the hardest part and became more and more time consuming to manage. But [my son] Jonathan has a lot of energy and is in touch with other pros in the area that are his age, and energy has a lot to do with it. You have to hire good people/personalities. I don’t want guests to come here and beat one of our pros. Then they go home and brag about it, and the resort doesn’t look as good as we should and [Jonathon] will be good at getting the best people. He has a lot of talent in that respect and a lot of concern for the island.”
Asked what his budget is and what revenues were like, Barth said both varied. “The budget started at $800,000 and has gone up to as much as a million/ year. “Back when Ravenel was part of the resort, they advertised the tennis center to their guests the same as KIGR would. But a lot of it depends on how you promote tennis. When Ravenel peeled off from KIGR, they took a lot of villas with them and that affected our bottom line, so revenues go up and down.”
Asked what he wants to do next, Barth talked about the 10 new tennis courts they are building. “I want to see that come to fruition. We’re going to have much needed locker rooms and better facilities all around. I also want to complete the third edition of my booklet ‘Tips For Better Tennis.’” The guide is given to camp/ instruction participants and is for sale at the tennis center to anyone interested in improving their game. It addresses 9 points of tennis with a focus on positive reinforcement that stresses control first, and power later. He also wants to write a memoir of his life in tennis.
Asked if he was far enough along to have a working title, he said he had. “I’m thinking of calling it ‘Point of Impact’ because that’s the most important thing I was taught; how to watch the ball properly, and it relates to things in life. What I learned in tennis and the people I met helped my life, my perspective.
“Arthur Ashe was a different sort. He was a very quiet, humble person. Very educated. Everywhere he went, he read about everything, France, Spain, you name it. Ashe was more of a cerebral type player, and he took away player’s strengths. I was really good at returning serve. Back then, everybody would serve and volley, and I love to hit targets so when [they] came to the net, I had a target. Ashe didn’t come to the net. Just stayed on the baseline and took away my strength. I’m also a puncher. I like to hit the ball with some pace, and he took that away, too. He would hit low and slow at me, and it was really difficult. He had analyzed my game before we played.
“People like him and Laver behave differently, too. They never make excuses if they lose a match. They just congratulate the other player. If you take a set off of either of them, they don’t get mad and yell, and throw their rackets. They just up their game. That’s how I approach both tennis and life, and I want to pass that on to some of the younger players.”
For more information or to schedule a court, visit KiawahResort.com/tennis.