Pioneers of South Dakota Tennis
By Terry Nielsen
tennis fans can only wonder how the word spread in 1928 when
Edward Shimkat of Bridgewater defeated Richard Bauer of Sioux
Falls to win the first ever, South Dakota state high school
singles championship. A town newspaper, probably a weekly
paper, spread the news, as well as word of mouth.
the internet, social media, twitter and FaceBook, fans can keep
up to speed instantly, as tennis matches progress, for quick
results. Radio and television media also do a great job
spreading the word, recognizing excellence in South Dakota
Tennis Hall of Fame 2017 Achievement Award intends to bring some
recognition, though maybe bits and pieces, to “Pioneers
of SD tennis.” We hope to recognize those who
made their mark from the early 1900’s into early 1950’s.
Several from that era have already been inducted into the SD
Tennis Hall of Fame.
this will NOT be a complete list, but a start as we begin
a listing with full intent to add in coming years as names are
passed on to us from area statewide tennis fans. Special thanks
for past research to area tennis historians John Mueller of
Minnesota and Don Grebin of Sioux Falls, both now gone but never
forgotten by tennis fans. Also, Ken Kessinger did lengthy
research on sports history at SF Washington High School.
Donaldson of Yankton,
was the first two time state prep champ 1930-31.
Holden of Britton won two also, 1934-35.
Birdseye of Aberdeen, was state champ in 1929, Scott Rethort of
Rapid City in 1932, Percy Klimisch of Yankton 1933, Irving Kaska
of “Eastern” 1936, Art Kilness of Sioux Falls 1938 (also won two
doubles titles), Eugene Kriens of Watertown 1942, Cliff Anderson
Sioux Falls 1948, Dick Olson of Watertown 1951, John Van Why of
Vermillion in 1952 and Chuck Bailin of Sioux Falls in 1953.
Rost of Sioux Falls
Washington High won three doubles titles 1951-1953, winning once
with Chuck Bailin and twice with John Simko.
Kindred and Marty Rud teamed to win doubles titles for Sioux
Falls twice, 1939-1940.
Lewis and John Mandersheid of Sioux Falls won prep doubles in
Posposel was a top player in Sioux Falls and teamed with Hall of
Famer Mike Trueblood to win doubles in 1947, the same year Mike
won singles at the state tournament in Rapid City.
Ainsworth of Sioux Falls Washington was state doubles champ in
1937, teaming with Art Kilness, who had just won the singles
Kindred was a fine player at Washington High and was runner up
to state champ Jolly Carlson (a Hall of Famer) twice in singles,
in 1939 and 1940.
Bauer, John Toohey, Arnold Tremere, Cyril Rock and John Schultz
have the distinction of being the first tennis team for SF
Washington High (1928-29). The coach was William Bubbers.
and Wayne Aberle were the top players for Washington High in
1935, followed by Gene Roland and Keith Howard the next year.
Washington’s Bob Harum and Dick Arnston won the 1942 doubles
years in a row in the mid 1940’s no state prep tennis tournament
Weber came to Sioux
Falls as a 27-year-old businessman in 1905 and lost his wife to
influenza in the early 1920’s. R.H. was first introduced to the
game of tennis during his travels around the USA at age 42. He
married Lucile in the 1930’s, and his love for tennis led him to
give around $6,000 to the city of Sioux Falls to build tennis
courts at Terrace Park, to serve the north end of the Sioux
Falls. Lucile became a fine player, winning several city titles
in the early 50’s. Her best year was 1955 when she won the SD
Closed singles, then teamed with Sally Howard to win doubles.
Hohm of Huron learned
the game of tennis with his brother Ted, on their family farm
near Yale in the 1920’s. Paul’s love for tennis later led him
and wife Carol to donate over $500,000 to construct indoor
tennis courts in Huron in the 1990’s. Paul said as school kids
he and Ted’s prize for field day at school was two tennis
racquets, a net and a can of balls. The boys used a borrowed
grader, pulled by horses, to smooth out a “clay-surfaced” tennis
court surrounded by poplar trees on their farm.
Fehrenz was a top female tennis player in the late 1940’s-1950,
Sioux Falls area. Vera Prince is remembered as a state Open
singles champ in earlier years.
Phillips of Sioux Falls was a top doubles players from Sioux
Falls, winning SD Open six doubles titles in seven years
starting in 1909.
Branson of Mitchell
won three Open state singles titles starting in 1910, and is
remembered as a top player who played regional events and earned
a national ranking in the top 60. He was a dominant player
until 1915 in SD.
Wheeler of Brookings won state titles in 1904-1906. (more on him
from Watertown won doubles titles in the SD Open in 1923, 1926.
Steele out of Madison
in the 1930’s is said to have reached a top 10 national ranking.
Madison native born in 1921, went on to USD law school and
served as states attorney and Federal Judge out of Pierre.
Porter was a fine tennis player who won state titles in both
North and South Dakota during his playing career.
fans recall Dorothy Nash both as a fine player as well as
tournament organizer, volunteer, starting back in the 1930’s.
Dravis in the early
1950’s was a fine player and instructor in Sioux Falls. His
father Les Dravis was often at the courts, running tournaments
and leagues for the city as a volunteer.
Kleespies of Sioux Falls won a state junior girls title in the
early 1950’s, then won a state and Open title by 1955. Other
area women who excelled in tennis then were Jo Foasberg of Huron
and Jean Shaw of Vermillion.
He was not
from South Dakota, but in 1925, John Doeg came from California
to win the SD Open. Don Grebin’s research discovered that five
years later (1930) John won a national tennis title; one year
after Bill Tilden had claimed the title.
Famer Bill Clayton played college tennis in the late 1940’s at
Washington and Lee University under Coach Fred Perry, who had
won the national title in 1933 and 1934.
and Cliff Anderson won state prep doubles for SF Washington High
year, 1949, Pierre’s Robert Hoffman defeated Aberdeen’s Jerry
Popowski for the state singles prep title. Then the title went
to Don Grebin (1950).
tennis names from the past are Don Erickson of Mitchell (retired
farmer who played daily at the old Hitchcock Park courts), Joe
Grimes, Huron’s Ray Schroeder and Franklin Hyde, longtime coach
at Pierre, along with Dr. Bob Ogborn, Wally Steele and Stuart
Grove, all of Sioux Falls.
Harrison won three state closed doubles titles starting in the
early 1950’s. Also, John Hoyapatubbi was a tennis instructor
during that time in Sioux Falls.
Schultz with wife
Marilyn of Sioux Falls helped shape the early years of Youth for
Tennis, Inc, a fund raising arm that offered tennis instruction
for aspiring young players.
female players in Sioux Falls from the 1940’s on included Mary
Ann Davis, Delores Whitcomb, Sharon Kriens and Charlene Fleming
(now Char Lamberty.) Fleming/ Lamberty, a registered nurse,
once played doubles with a physician she make hospital rounds
with, Dr. V.V. Volin.
Shapiro made his mark
in Sioux Falls also in the early 1950’s. Former Argus Leader
sports editor John Egan, living in Sun City AZ in 2004, met up
with Shapiro and uncovered some interesting tennis history from
the 1949 in Sioux Falls. George said when he was 19 and living
in Sioux Falls playing semi-pro baseball as a pitcher, his
catcher was Don Minor. Minor’s day job was maintaining the clay
tennis courts at old McKennan Park. George tagged along and in
no time was drawn to the game.
baseball had a lot in common,” said George “hand-eye
coordination, footwork, anticipating where the ball is headed,
keeping your eyes on it, a quick yet smooth stroke. Even the
service motion is similar to the overhand pitch.” It became
George’s passion and when he moved away and became a university
teacher, his entire family played, enhancing their games at
Tennis and Life camps in St. Peter, MN with Steve Wilkinson.
Later in life Shapiro spent over 20 years teaching tennis,
including coaching junior high tennis students in Sun City
during winter months in his retirement.
Weinbender was a good tennis player in Aberdeen in the early
1950’s. John was a YMCA leader and taught tennis for many
Wheeler tennis saga:
finally, this story from Tommy Seward, sports editor of the
Huron Daily Plainsman in 1955. His research tells the story of
John Wheeler in the spring of 1904. In one of the greatest
tennis marathons ever, John was representing Huron College.
Wheeler won a gold medal by defeating the defending state
college champion. After competing in the state college high
jump in the morning, John entered the tennis singles event.
defending champion from Mitchell, Ray Branson, was given a bye
into the finals. Wheeler won four matches just to get to the
finals, which was the best of five sets. It went to a fifth set
and Wheeler won 9-7, despite cramping in his legs during a hot,
grueling day. That was a total of 116 games of
tennis in one day for Wheeler.
qualifies as one of the most unusual days in the life of a
“Pioneer of SD tennis.”
(Editor’s note: additional names and data for future
recognition from the early years to the 1950’s, can be emailed