Written by: Pierre Lamarche
***A great occurrence in tennis is the many unbelievable encounters you have. Sometimes decades later, a new meeting brings back memories and thoughts about the wonderful [or not so wonderful] moments you lived previously through the sport. The Bear now begins a new series “No Coincidence” which recalls some of these special moments.***
This is the first of a series of articles which will highlight the tennis connection between Canada and the State of Mississippi. You might wonder why I would choose a seemingly far-fetched Canadian connection with the State of Mississippi. The Magnolia State, which is also known as God’s Country for those that have been lucky enough to live there, and which has given us Elvis Presley, B.B. King, Jimmy Buffett, William Faulkner, John Grisham, Brett Favre, Archie Manning, Morgan Freeman and Oprah Winfrey, has the most amazing connection to Canadian Tennis.
It has also been one of the greatest influences in my business and personal life. I lived in Mississippi in the late 60’s and early 70’s at a time of unbelievable change in American society. During my first year at Mississippi State in Starkville, I lived the integration of the University by two football players. One of them, Melvin Barkum, was a President’s scholar and became Mr. MSU by his senior year. I lived the war in Vietnam, where my fraternity brothers, who flunked out, suddenly were drafted and gone overseas in a horrible futile war. I lived Kent State, where young people finally stood up for a new order and paid the price. I lived the “Peace and Love” awakening, which made sideburns almost acceptable in the Deep South. These experiences, plus being part of the NCAA #3 tennis team, being the youngest Head Coach in the US, while attending graduate school, and the many lifelong friends I made, are deep-rooted in my soul and have helped to develop my vision, my passion, my success, my values, my life, my spiritual beliefs, my humor, my joy, my thankfulness, simply who I am [OK, so there are also negative aspects of my personality that I have just decided to overlook. Author’s prerogative].
Let’s see how really unbelievable the Canadian connection is to this state of less than three million people. Well how about:
1. Two Davis Cup Captains: John McManus and Pierre Lamarche
2. Two Fed Cup Captains: Andree Martin and Pierre Lamarche
3. Six National Coaches: Simon Bartram, Simon Larose, Jim Boyce, Andree Martin, John McManus and Pierre Lamarche
4. Two Canadian Open Tournament Directors: Eugene Lapierre and Pierre Lamarche
5. Six Davis Cup and Fed Cup Players: Jim Boyce, Stephane Bonneau, Andree Martin, Jane Young, Simon Larose and Pierre Lamarche
6. Five Canadian Men’s and Women’s Champions: Stephane Bonneau, Jim Boyce, Jane Young, Andree Martin and Pierre Lamarche
7. Many National Junior Champions: Karen Barbiero and sister Denise, Zack White, David Johnston, Charles Sevigny, Stephane Bonneau, Jim Boyce, Simon Bartram, Andree Martin, Jane Young, Simon Larose and Pierre Lamarche
8. Three All-American Players: Roy Moscatini, Simon Larose, Andree Martin
9. Two members in the Tennis Canada Hall of Fame: Andree Martin and Pierre Lamarche
10. Two members of the Rogers Hall of Fame: Eugene Lapierre and Pierre Lamarche
11. Three College Coaches: Daryl Greenan, Max Fomine and Pierre Lamarche
12. Two Executive Directors of Provincial Associations: Jim Boyce and Eugene Lapierre
13. Mississippi State University [MSU]: Simon Lavery, Gabe Rona, Allard Cote, Rosie Dion, Max Fomine, John McManus, Roy Moscatini, Simon Larose, Charles Sevigny, David Johnston, Jim Boyce, Zach White, Daryl Greenan and Pierre Lamarche
14. University of Mississippi [Ole Miss]: Paul Beck, Jane Young, Simon Bartram and the Barbiero sisters
15. Mississippi State College for Women: Andree Martin
16. Belhaven College: the late Francois Senegal, Eugene Lapierre, Erik Bonneau, Martin Dyotte and Stephane Bonneau
My Mississippi connections could be categorized into two groups: my Mississippi State tennis teammates and my tennis [musician/Canada/Montreal] friends. I recently had the opportunity to revisit the great Magnolia state for the first time in 20 years and only the second in 40. The occasion was the reunion of three MSU teams from the 1960’s, which helped define MSU as a tennis power in American Universities. These three teams had top 10 NCAA finishes [two top three and one #8]. I used the opportunity to revisit with friends from 40 years ago, while also visiting some very special lifetime friends. In the next few articles, I will provide you insight on what has made these relations so important and life forming, as well as the unbelievable wealth of talent which came from these times in the Good Ole South.
These reflections are also very relevant as it relates to the present development of the sport in our country, since this trip provided me an unbelievable insight on the ever-changing US University college tennis system and the wonderful opportunity it provides to many of our Canadian tennis players. I had the opportunity to see the Southeastern Conference Championships, a conference with SEVEN top 20 ranked teams. I saw Canadians, Panav Jha, Kentucky, and David Vieyra, Alabama, both former players at the National Training Center in Montreal, as well as former top junior players, Victor Hoang, Arkansas, and Zachary White, Mississippi State. MSU has rejoined for the first time in years the top ten NCAA rankings getting to the semi-finals of the SEC Championships, losing to eventual winner, Georgia. Ole Miss, which is coached by my good friend, the legendary Billy Chadwick [more about him later] and has been a constant fixture of the top ten NCAA rankings over the last decade, also lost in the semis to US #4 Kentucky.
The NCAA regional championships will be starting on May 12, 2012 with Southeastern Conference teams hosting five of the regional championships: #2 Georgia, #6 University of Kentucky [Jha], #9 Mississippi State University [White], #12 Florida and #13 Ole Miss. Auburn, Vanderbilt and Tennessee from the SEC also qualified. Follow the NCAA tennis tournament here. The finals are slated for the Dan Magill 5000-seat stadium at the University of Georgia from May 18 to May 22. Go Dagws!!!!! Go Rebs!!!!!