1999 ATP TOURNAMENT THE CINCINNATI ENQUIRER MONDAY, AUGUST 9, 1999 Tournament turns professional
Open era arrives; Western replaces tri-state
BY MICHAEL PERRY
The Cincinnati Enquirer
John Parke can't remember exactly how he became chairman of the first Western Tennis Championships in Cincinnati.
"Maybe we drew straws," he said. "I suspect the reason I wound up being the chairman might have been the fact that I was at P&G and someone thought that was a good deal. I don't really recall."
Parke, who was born in Manhattan, moved to Cincinnati in 1960 and soon after joined the Cincinnati Tennis Club, which at the time played host to the Tri-State Tennis Tournament. All members were involved in the event.
During the amateur tournament era, players were paid "under-the-table" money to appear at events. Parke was particularly glad to see that end with the professional tournaments, and with the Western in Cincinnati.
"Open tennis finally allowed it to be above board," Parke said.
But running a pro tournament was something new to the area. Bob Harpenau, a member of the Cincinnati Tennis Club and an area businessman, agreed to underwrite the event.
"There was no road map, so we were just sort of guessing," Parke said. "We arbitrarily said five grand for the men's singles (winner) and the politically incorrect decision to be $500 for the ladies singles. Bob Lutz and Stan Smith won the doubles and split $1,500, and they beat Arthur Ashe and Charlie Pasarell.
FUN FACT Peachy Kellmeyer, the women's winner of the Tri-State in 1961, is now a senior vice president of the Women's Tennis Association.
"We had a super committee. I can't remember all the people who worked on the thing. We put most of the players in homes. The hosts and hostesses were feeding them and driving them to the club for the tournament."
Parke was in charge only that one year.
He resigned from Procter & Gamble and took a job with Ralston Purina in St. Louis, where he moved in 1969. He remained active in tennis as a chair umpire for indoor and outdoor tourneys that came through St. Louis.
He now lives in Rochester, N.Y., and is president of PPI Marketing Group, a consulting firm he started in the early 1980s.
"We all felt real good after it was over because the experience was just so great," Parke said. "All of us that were in a real leadership role knew professional tennis was the answer and we were so glad to be among the first to play a part of it."
A LOOK BACK...
Copyright 1999 The Cincinnati Enquirer, a Gannett Co. Inc. newspaper.
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