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2007 Award - Slew Hester Adult Achievement Awards

Slew Hester Adult Achievement Awards
Given in memory of past USTA Southern Section President William E. "Slew" Hester, this award is presented annually to a ranked male and female adult or senior player in the USTA Southern Section in recognition of their outstanding tennis performance.

Henry Baughman
Smithfield, KY

Henry Baughman did not grow up playing tennis and winning tournaments, but you would never know that by the number of gold medals framed in his house. He was taught the game by his late father and could never compete due to his duties on the family farm through his high school years. Baughman later become a tennis phenom in 1982, his first year competing in the 45s division. He won 14 of 17 tournaments, with his best victory over Tommy Bartlett for the Southern Closed title.

Since then, he has reached the Southern Championship "Big Four" of Indoor, Hard-court, Open and Closed title matches 95 times, taking 55 gold and 40 silver medals. Baughman has ranked in the top five of the Southern rankings for 25 consecutive years. In Kentucky rankings, he has been No. 1 in various divisions of singles and doubles over 50 times. In addition, Baughman has been a permanent fixture to the Senior Cup by serving as representative nearly every year.

On the national scene, Baughman has won nine singles and two doubles titles in the National Public Parks, which is more than any other participant in the event’s 81-year history. He had his best year in 2001 when he was ranked tenth nationally after reaching the finals of the National Clay Courts. In singles, he won his age division five times at the National Senior Olympics. Baughman played on Southern All-Star teams in the National Intersectional Championships seven times, winning a mixed doubles and men’s gold medals. Each of those seven years, the Southern team finished with the top ranking in the nation.

In 2007, Baughman entered his first year of competition in the 70s division and has seen much of the same success, having won over a dozen titles. In Kentucky, he took the Closed singles and doubles titles along with the Indoor singles championship. He was crowned the singles and doubles champion at the Southern Hard Court Championships and took the singles title at the Southern Indoors. Baughman won three Category II National events in singles at Bocage, Atlanta Senior Invitational and National Public Parks. He is ranked third in doubles and holds the top spot in singles sectionally, while he ranks No. 4 nationally in singles.

Irene Shepard
Martinez, GA
With more than fifty years of tennis under her belt, Irene Shepard of Martinez, GA has won titles all over the country. Although her house is donned with trophies, plaques and gold balls, the 80 year old champion has not slowed down the pace. Currently ranked No. 1 in the 80’s division, Shepard is looking forward to the new crop of players moving to her division next year as they will serve as her next challenge.

Irene took up the game in her early 20s but, with a busy work schedule, was unable to participate in national tournaments. In 1998, the Shepards moved to Georgia from Massachusetts and with the support of her husband, Irene’s tennis took off. Her first gold ball was captured in the Women’s 65 doubles division at the National Grass Court Championships in Germantown, PA with partner Louise Owens of Indiana. The duo overcame three top ranked teams in their journey to the top and battled out the final in 121 degree, on-court temperatures.

Even though Irene describes that first gold ball win as the thrill of a lifetime, it still was not enough to quench her thirst for competition. She set a new lifetime goal of winning a national singles title. That dream became a reality in 2007 at the National Clay Court Championships in Huntsville, AL. Her win over Betty Eisenstein, who had been the No. 1 player in every age group for the past 20 years, was a monumental moment in her career.

But no moment could top the sentimental experience last December on her 80th birthday. Irene showed up at Petersburg Racquet Club for a weekly doubles match and 40 of her tennis friends were there for a surprise party.

"It made me feel pretty special," said Shepard. "It was one of the greatest days of my life. It was just as overwhelming as the first time I won a gold ball."


 


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