- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
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"Relax, Jack," Irwin advises. "Relax. Get your racket back! Follow through!"
Jack stiff-arms one past the base line; another reaches the net on the third bounce. From his shoulder to the tip of his racket Jack is one long ax handle.
"Don't be tense, Jack. Calm down. Calm down!" Irwin stalks around his pupil like a boxer looking for an opening. Within the vortex of his instruction the pupil concentrates, his eyes wide and his lips pursed. "Snug that elbow in, Jack. And don't be tense."
With a massive effort Jack loosens and hits an acceptable forehand into the backcourt. Plop. Then another. Plop.
"Ahhh," coos Irwin. "Isn't that beautiful, Jack?"
Jack nods happily.
"He's 56 years old and just taking up the game," says Irwin when the lesson is over. He is fluttering back to the pro shop.
"A refugee from golf. I used to never get one. The first 10 years I didn't have a single adult, except the club's tennis chairman. Now it's geriatric tennis, a whole new ball of wax. I have a woman 64 years old. She was shocked she could run. Some you got to watch out for—the guy who's 50 and thinks he's 25 and wants to hit aces. A pro has to know what he's doing. A lot of us don't.
"We have pros who can teach and pros who say they can teach. We need standardizing, like the PGA with its golf pros. Some clubs still hire social directors. A guy says, 'I'm a pro,' and if he's got a tan and can meet people he's in."
At the door of his pro shop Irwin is stopped by a woman who has drawn her daughter in the club tournament. She says it is a delicate situation, and what is Irwin going to do about it? Irwin says he is going to wish her good luck.