USPTA Recognizes Leaders in Tennis Profession

September 22, 2008

The United States Professional Tennis Association honored its top teachers, coaches, players, volunteers and managers during its annual national awards ceremony at the USPTA World Conference on Tennis on September 18. USPTA, the world’s oldest and largest association of tennis-teaching professionals, is hosting its annual World Conference Sept. 15-20 at La Quinta Resort and Club in La Quinta, Calif.

Welby Van Horn of Lake Worth, Fla., became part of an elite group as a grand inductee into the USPTA’s Hall of Fame. Van Horn is both a respected player and tennis-teaching professional, whose teaching system is widely used today.

USPTA CEO Tim Heckler of Houston received the George Bacso Lifetime Achievement Award, one of the highest honors the USPTA can bestow upon an individual member. It recognizes members who provide the USPTA with the most outstanding service and who dedicate a lifetime to raising the standards of teaching. Heckler has served as the USPTA CEO for 26 years and during that time has established the USPTA as the foremost organization of teaching professionals in the world.

Tom Sweitzer of Hershey, Pa., received the association’s top annual member award, the Alex Gordon Award for the USPTA Professional of the Year. Sweitzer, owner of Central Penn Tennis Service, has taught over 50,000 hours of on-court tennis lessons with more than 200 of his former students now coaching or teaching tennis.

The USPTA Star, recognizing teaching professionals who make an indelible mark on their communities through the sport of tennis, was awarded to David Boon of Fort Collins, Colo. Boon has contributed to the growth of tennis in Fort Collins for over 20 years with his work with at-risk youth and recently establishing the only First Serve Chapter in the Intermountain area.

Jorge Andrew’s strong commitment to bringing tennis to his community of Lexington, S.C., and helping grow the game, through his involvement in several committees including the USTA junior team tennis national committee and the USTA Southern youth community tennis programs committee, is what earned him the USTA/USPTA Community Service Award.

Stephen Tscherne of Sylmar, Calif., received the USPTA Industry Excellence Award, recognizing business acumen and a charitable attitude. Tscherne is president of the Neighborhood Junior Tennis Program, which just celebrated its 15th anniversary, and has taught tennis to more than 1,500 children who come from families that could not afford the typical costs of lessons. The award is sponsored by the Tennis Industry Association and supported by Tennis Tutor ball machines.

J.J. Sehlke of Boca Raton, Fla., received the Facility Manager of the Year Award. Sehlke is the managing partner of the Coral Ridge Country Club in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

The USPTA National Awards program is conducted annually. Nominations are submitted by the 17 divisions and by individuals. Recipients in each awards category are decided by the USPTA’s awards committee.

Biographies of the award recipients follow.

Founded in 1927, USPTA strives to raise the standards of the tennis profession while promoting greater awareness of the sport. USPTA offers more than 60 professional benefits to its more than 15,000 members worldwide, including certification and professional development. With more than 300 days of educational opportunities throughout the year, USPTA offers the most comprehensive continuing education program in the tennis industry. For more information, call 800-877-8248 or visit

– USPTA award recipient biographies –

His career as a coach has spawned institutions such as the Welby Van Horn Tennis Academy in Boca Raton, Fla., and Welby Van Horn tennis programs in a number of locations. The teaching system he developed is still used today and it is featured in his recent book “The Secrets of the Tennis Master.”

Former Wimbledon and U.S. Singles Champion and all-time tennis great, Jack Kramer, said, “Welby was a… terrific world-class player. But as good as he was as a player, he became an even better coach. His system of instruction is unique and amazingly productive.”

Tim Heckler, who is one of the most respected leaders in the tennis industry, has served the USPTA as CEO for 26 years. It is through his vision, hard work and leadership that the USPTA has thrived, increasing its membership and income many times over during his tenure, which began in 1982.

Other accolades Heckler has received include being named a grand inductee in the Association’s Hall of Fame in 2000, receiving the International Tennis Hall of Fame’s Tennis Educational Merit Award in 2002 and being inducted into the Texas Tennis Hall of Fame in 2005.

Tom Sweitzer, Hershey, Pa. – Alex Gordon Award for the USPTA Professional of the Year

Sweitzer has been very committed in his involvement with the USPTA. He is a former USPTA Middle States Division president and has spoken at more than 15 national and divisional conventions. He has taught over 50,000 hours of on-court tennis lessons with more than 200 of his former students now teaching or coaching tennis, and has directed over 250 USTA tournaments. As a player, he played No. 1 singles for his high school team at Manheim Central High School and was ranked in the top 10 in the 18s. He has also published more than 30 tennis articles.

He lives in Hershey and spends winters in Hilton Head Island, S.C., with his wife Mikel, who is also a tennis professional.

Mike Lange, Geneva, Ill. – Tester of the Year Mike Lange, a USPTA Professional 1, is the manager of tennis services at the Rush-Copley Healthplex Fitness Center in Geneva, Ill. He is head tester for the Midwest Division, as well as the division’s past president. He has tested 97 people during the awards period. In an effort to improve communication among division testers, he has set up a system of regular phone call and e-mail communications. In addition to his involvement with the USPTA, Lange also serves as an exclusive Nike dealer and a member of the Wilson Premiere Advisory Staff.