Penick was always a hero to me. I remember seeing him riding his bicycle to class and to the courts and still playing on into his 80s a spirited game of tennis in his well-pressed white duck trousers. For a book-loving, athletic boy, being allowed to play at the beautiful, spacious university courts (later named after Penick and Allison) was an honor. I would gladly have played for the Doctor for free. As it was, I wasn't even to play one full season for him; in March of my first year there he officially passed the torch to Allison, who had assisted him for many years. But Penick lived for another seven years, reading classical literature, coming to the courts on sunny days and continuing a wide correspondence with his former players.
By the time I joined the team, his eyesight and legs had begun to fail him a bit, but every day in the fall and winter of my freshman year, when the weather was at all tolerable, Allison would bring Penick to the courts where he would sit bolt upright on a bench behind the baseline, his cane held firmly in both hands between his knees. His august demeanor lent a certain gravity to our practices, and I don't think it would be an overstatement to say that we felt ennobled by the silent attention he paid us. He said little to the players, particularly the freshmen, so I was surprised to be called to his side one afternoon. I was even more surprised by his words. " Todd," he said in his high, precise voice, "I simply wanted to tell you that you are my favorite player."
"Why, why, thank you, Dr. Penick," I replied, as my already inappropriately large chest began to swell with pride and my head filled with recollections of stories about the Doctor's renowned ability to spot talent that with proper nurture could carry a man on beyond the Southwest Conference crown to the intercollegiate championship and the winner's spot at Forest Hills—yea, even unto Wimbledon itself. But just as I was about to serve in my mind a fourth consecutive ace on Centre Court, Penick spoke again, smiling: "You see, Todd, my eyes are not what they used to be, and to be quite honest I can't tell the other players apart very well anymore if they are more than a few feet away. But you, my boy, have a very distinctive silhouette."