"Don't sweat it," says the young man. "I'm putting the psych on these two in front of us. We'll challenge the couple on the far side. Watch the way the big guy's serving. See that? Lotta spin. Like Laver. You gotta get your racket back in a hurry...."
When the visitor left City Park just before 10 p.m., having not so much as unsheathed his racket, all the courts were still occupied. The young married couple were holding their own against the ersatz Laver and his wife. Laver was having trouble getting his spin in, double-faulting even in the face of the delicate girl, who seemed to be getting her racket back in fine threatening style. The goateed man had found a singles game on the next court and his match drew a small audience behind both fences.
Chauncy, meanwhile, had finished his match and was conducting what appeared to be a seminar on the backhand for two of those he had played with. The visitor toyed with the idea of asking him for some lessons but thought better of it and treated himself instead to a pizza and a beer for less than $5.
Five years ago the U.S. Lawn Tennis Association accepted open tennis and updated its amateur code to allow some playing amateurs to teach the game for a living. Club pros proliferated like socks in a drawer and now are too numerous to count. In Denver, most of those who teach also play in tournaments. Jim Landin, the pro at the Jewish Community Center Tennis Club, has, at 39, won the Men's 35 National Indoors championships in 1971 and 1974 and is the only adult player in Denver to be nationally ranked in singles. Those distinctions did not keep him from getting fired from a good job at the Pinehurst Country Club when, after four years, Landin said he "lost communication.
"The pro no longer has the club owner by the throat," says Landin. "If he doesn't communicate, there are plenty of guys who will." It is, he says, a bewildering time. Bringing the masses to tennis not only disrupted its form and dulled its fine points but gave club pros a delicious opportunity to work themselves to death and out of jobs.
"We get money-hungry," says Landin. "We play a tournament, and the next day when it's 100� on the court we go out and give 21 lessons. And when we've worn ourselves out we bite the head off the first guy who asks a civil question. Tennis is growing so fast it's wobbling. It's our job to give it stability, to remember that we're here to serve people."
One who remembers and has resisted the sirenic urge to cash in is Richard Hillway, the state's third-ranked amateur and coach of the state champion Cherry Creek High team, a winner of 53 straight matches. At Cherry Creek more boys turn out for Hillway's tennis team (66) than for football. In the summer Hillway, 31, runs the tennis program at the Village club, to supplement his income. But he turned down the prestigious Denver Country Club job and gave up the position at the Araphoe Tennis Club, where he would have made a lot more than his schoolteacher's salary.
As a club pro in boomsville, Hillway found if he wanted to spend extra time with a pupil, he no longer had it to spend. "Not every kid wants to go to Wimbledon," he said, "some just want to play. I'm not going to say, 'Listen, you gotta be No. 1.' But if a kid wants a few more hits, I want the time to hit with him.
"I don't want to be a tennis pro, as such. You ever seen a guy who's been a club pro 20 years? Twelve months a year? He's like a robot. He can't talk about anything else. He can't do anything else. That's not for me. I'm a schoolteacher. I like my weekends off."
Irwin J. Hoffman, slightly stoop-shouldered, dark fried-out hair, in a pastel yellow tennis outfit and steel-rimmed glasses, is fluttering around from court to court, trailing along the edges of the tennis wake like a large yellow gull. He has been the tennis pro at the Green Gables Country Club since 1957, when there were only two cement courts and his was a part-time job. Now there are six, with Lakold surfaces, and they are taken by proper-looking players properly dressed. Many of them exhibit the good clean strokes Hoffman taught them. He has, for some time, been called the best teaching pro in Denver.