John Egan is living proof that you donít have to be a
great player to love the sport of tennis. A doubles
"specialist" at Sioux Falls area courts in the í70s and
í80s, Egan was known as a net rusher. And, as one former
opponent said with a smile, "that wasnít because he had
a big serve and a great volley...he just had no ground
But this story isnít about Johnís tennis game. Itís
how he impacted South Dakota tennis as one of the areaís
top sportswriters over a 35-year period that ended with
his retirement in 1989 from the Argus Leader in Sioux
For his impact on tennis, Egan is receiving the 2000
South Dakota Tennis Achievement Award.
Tennis is a sport played in private compared to the
major sports in this area. Tennis "crowds" at a match,
beyond a few relatives, are rare. Voices shouting for
public park dollars to enhance tennis are often lost in
the budget battles of city halls around the state.
Eganís influence changed the tennis scenery around
eastern South Dakota. During his 35 years at the Argus,
he served as sportswriter, editor and columnist. Tennis
coverage was expanded appropriately and fairly. This
occurred even with the constant concern for space in the
newspaper, as more sports, plus girlsí athletics, needed
Most prominent was his coverage in the early í80s
that promoted and helped organize the volunteer efforts
of the Sioux Falls Tennis Association to raise private
donations to lend a hand to the city coffers for the
McKennan Park tennis court reconstruction project.
Also, Egan had planted the seed with local leadership
to start the SD Tennis Hall of Fame (before he retired
to Sun City, Arizona, in 1990).
An eight-time winner of the SD Sportswriter of the
Year Award, Egan in retirement is a volunteer worker for
Habitat for Humanity. He heads a project that collects
donated furniture for Habitat Homes in his Sun City area
(90 homes furnished through April 2000). Heís also
stayed active as a staff writer for Sun Golf, a magazine
distributed across the Southwest.
For years an underlying theme in his many sports
columns was fairness for all, and recognizing those that
typically would not grab the headlines. The South Dakota
Childrenís Home Societyís Childrenís Friend Award given
him in 1989 remains one of his proudest moments. His
last official day at the office, August 19, 1989 was
proclaimed "John Egan Day" by the office of the
governor. He co-founded the SD Sports Hall of Fame in
1968 and has seen 111 sports figures inducted.
One of his major accomplishments was publishing a
non-fiction historical documentary entitled "Drop Him
Till He Dies." The book, published in 1994, was sold
across the Upper Midwest and beyond. The story dealt
with the life of Johnís great-grandfather. Thomas Egan
was found guilty and executed in Dakota Territory in
1882 for a murder he did not commit. Exoneration came on
a confession by his stepdaughter in 1927.
Former Miami Dolphin owner (and SD native) Joe Robbie
wrote at Eganís retirement, "You have given South Dakota
sports events complete coverage which has been fair,
accurate and informative. You understand sports and gave
fair recognition to the athletes...best of all, you have
shown the human side of sports."
South Dakota U.S. Senator Tom Daschle, in 1989, said,
"I will miss the 35-year Egan tradition. With your pen
you have made thousands of mornings brighter for tens of
thousands of your readers. Far more, I fear, than the
news with which I am involved, the news you have
reported is the news your readers have wanted. Getting
it to them, all of it, the hundreds and hundreds of
little scores and stories that are so big to a few,
speaks of a respect for others that is too rare today."
John is a Minneapolis, MN native and Augustana
College graduate (1953). He and his wife, Jan, have one
daughter, Jodie Flolid of Chanhassen, MN.