Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Hank Jungle Memorial Jumps off at Cypress Lake

Court Sponsor thank you
As inaugural events go, it is hard to imagine one being any more successful than the Inaugural Hank Jungle Memorial Tennis Event held this past weekend (Feb. 25 – 26) at Cypress Lake Country Club. Terry See, director of tennis at Cypress Lake and an icon of Fort Myers tennis in his own right, organized the event for another Fort Myers tennis icon and legend, Hank Jungle. 

Terry See get the ball bouncing
The weekend activities began on Saturday morning with a ceremony and court dedication to honor Hank, by all accounts as unique and dynamic a tennis professional as there ever was in the area or anywhere for that matter. Friends, fans, and students flocked to the tennis complex at Cypress Lake from as far away as Maine to pay tribute to local legend.

Cypress Lake GM Ed Rodgers in foreground
The tennis community certainly owes Cypress Lake’s Board and General Manager, Ed Rodgers (who mingled with the crowd all day Saturday), a hearty note of thanks for fast-tracking the conversion of the Hank Jungle Memorial Court from hard to clay. Additional gratitude must be expressed to the court sponsors who helped make it happen with their generosity.   
Mike Curran pays respects to his teacher

Butch Shorack singing Hank's praises
So who was Hank Jungle? Well Butch Shorack asked in his tribute to Hank, “How can you talk about Hank in five minutes?” And after listening to the many stories of Hank, as told by those who knew him well, there’s no way that I can do justice to the man and his legacy here. I will, however, say that if you run across a highly skilled tennis player who has been in the Fort Myers area for a decade or more, chances are he or she took lessons from Hank at some point.  
Bob Christie down from Maine

Among many other things, Hank was the former owner of Park Meadow Tennis Center, and co-founder of the Florida Open, the only national level junior event held in our area. How unique was the man? Here’s a story that might make you wonder: I was playing in the Pro Am on Sunday morning, when, pointing to the “memorial rock” and chuckling, one of his former students told me the following story:

“That rock is right next to the tree that Hank lit on fire. Yeah, I was just a kid and we’re out on the court, and Hank is running some drills with us, when I noticed smoke coming from courtside. I look over and it’s a little tree that Hank apparently threw his cigarette butt into. I called out to him to let him know, and he just told us to keep on drilling while he poured some of his beer on the tree to try to put out the fire.”

Patsy Jungle strikes first ball on memorial court
Now I’m sure that most adults reading this would express various degrees of horror at that story, and there may have been some embellishing there, but embellishment or no, that was Hank; he did what he did as only he could do it, and gave a piece of himself to the many who flowed into his orbit. Patsy Jungle, his widow and a character in her own right, was clearly thrilled with the weekend’s proceedings. 
Patsy & Mark Nunally

Patsy played in one of the Mixed Doubles flights with Mark Nunally and seemed to have a tremendous time being on court and mingling with the many who loved her mate.

The Events
Tom Visilou & Jim DiDonna
Hank was about tennis, and so there was plenty of tennis to be had at Cypress Lake this weekend. A competitive Men’s, Women’s and Mixed Doubles events were held on Saturday, a Pro-Am was played on Sunday morning, and a number of local area pros and talented juniors played some exhibition sets.

Jemileth Aguilar & Chandler Novoa
Kathy Shimp & Karen Orlando
The Ladies
Seven teams in two flights vied for the 4.5 Women’s Division, and six teams in two flights battled for the 3.5 Women’s Division. In the 4.5 Women’s, youth carried the day, as Chandler Novoa and Jemileth Aguilar, who together 

did not equal the age of any one of their competitors, won their flight convincingly. Karen Orlando and Kathy Shimp of Park Meadow claimed the other flight 4.5 Women’s flight, and were very game in their finals loss to the youthful champions. Chandler and Jemileth are down in history as winners of the very first event of the Inaugural Hank Jungle Memorial. 

Grace McGee & Tracy DiBiase
In the Women’s 3.5 Tracy DiBiase and Grace McGee playing out of Park Meadow took on Barbara Parsons and Carol Greene in the final after each team had won its flight. In one of the more closely contested matches, Tracy and Grace took the 3.5 Title.  
Barbara Parsons & Carol Greene

The Gentlemen
Butch Shorack & Brian Hammermeister
The men had three teams each in two flights in the 3.5 Division, and eight teams in two flights in the 4.5 Division. In the 3.5s, Butch Shorack and Brian Hammermeister claimed their flight and met Ed Ledwith and John Slattery, who played because flight winners Ed Bonkowski and Jerry Arzy couldn't play. Ed and John were second by virtue of head-to-head tiebreak in the most closely contested flight of the entire event.

Butch and Brian had to pull out a tiebreak in their flight to reach the final, but once there, they rolled over Ed and John. Guess they don’t call Brian “Da Hamma” for nothing. Butch also played in the Pro-Am on Sunday morning, but he had me for a partner, so his winning ended on Saturday.

T. A. & Glenn Kouns
In the 4.5 Men’s, Terry was kind to me and partner Glenn Kouns, former director of tennis as Cypress Lake.  Actually, as I examine the draws, I think Terry made a “senior citizens” flight and a “not quite there yet” flight. Yours truly rode Glenn to the final, where we met the ultimate gentleman in Marius Espeleta and his possessed partner, Ed Bolter.  

Marius Espeleta & Ed Bolter
Marius and Ed had already won one tiebreak to reach the final, and battled their way into a tiebreak with us as well, despite having fallen behind early, 0-3. In the end, winning back-to-back breakers was just too much to ask, and Glenn and I prevailed in the breaker.

Terry chats with Tracy DiBiase & Ken Monahan

Mixed Doubles
In Mixed Doubles, six teams in two flights competed, and youth again spoke loudest as teenaged Women’s 4.5 Champion Chandler Novoa teamed with Javier Rebolledo, another high octane teen, to claim the Championship. Tracy DiBiase and dad Ken Monahan did not lie down for the champs, but couldn’t overcome the power advantage wielded by Chandler and Javier.  

Day 2 
Lucky pros await their amateur
The Pro-Am
Sunday morning featured three flights with a total of twelve local amateurs teamed with twelve tennis professionals and top junior players in a Pro-Am. The three amateur flight winners were presented awards.

Pros prepare for Pro-Am
Pros in the top flight included Jonas Kushner, Fred Kangwa, Eddie Neese, and Ryan Sherry. They played with Steve Harrison, Duke, Ed Bolter, and Marius Espeleta respectively. Ed Bolter and Eddie edged Steve Harrison and Jonas by two games, despite losing a tiebreak to them in their first match.

Parker bombs serve while Tommy watches
Pros/junior phenoms in the middle flight included Elliot DeBolt, Parker Cuevas-Woodall, Cap Owens, and me. Our amateurs were Kathy Shimp, Tommy Carlisle, Chandler Novoa, and Butch Shorack respectively. There was a three-way tie for first, as the youngsters took turns dispatching Butch and me (sorry Butch).

Patsy flips coin at Terry's behest
Terry declared that one-point tiebreakers were in order, and Patsy had the honor of the coin toss. Elliot and Kathy took the court first against Cap and Chandler, and Elliot elected to serve after winning the toss: “tails never fails,” he said. If only that were true of his serve as well. A double fault ended that tiebreak and it appeared as though Chandler was on her way to a triple crown.

For all the marbles in Pro Am
Parker & Tommy v. Cap & Chandler
Tails again won the toss and Cap elected to serve. Given how he had just won the last tiebreak, he showed more courage than I might have in those circumstances. In any event, he got the first serve in and a cross-court exchange between Cap and Parker ensued. It ended the way many of Parker’s points ended that morning: with a blistering, untouchable forehand. Point, set, match: Parker & Tommy!

The third and final Pro-Am group featured pros Rob Vinal, Jeff Timmer, Glenn Kouns and Mark Nunally and amateurs Brian Hammermeister, Elizabeth Cossu, Jim DiDonna, and John Cossu. Brian and Rob had a tussle with John and Mark, but got the win, and took the honors for the third Pro-Am group.

Hearing Hank Stories
You would think that that was more than enough tennis for everyone, but no. Although the crowd had thinned considerably, there were still hardcore tennis junkies hanging around for the pro exhibition. I’m pretty sure that by the time the six courts of doubles exhibitions were completed, all involved had had their fill, along with a smashing good time!

Summing it Up
Patsy touched by the moment
If Hank could have seen the tribute he was paid this weekend, there’s no doubt in my mind that he would wear a smile on his face for a long time. In his stead, Patsy wore an engaging smile, and shared some laughter with us in his honor. I know she was gratified and she intimated as much when she said, “Hank used to say, 'I teach a world class stroke,' and I think the whole thing was world class. Terry, and Ed Rodgers with his help and insight, really made it happen. I think everyone enjoyed it, and I’ve heard nothing but good things. Hank always wanted to touch people and I think it was mission accomplished with the event!

Terry See, Master of Ceremonies
Terry See also expressed his gratitude for all the support he received from management at Cypress Lake and from his fellow pros: “I hope the Board feels good about fast-tracking the new court after witnessing the great turnout we had this weekend. I really appreciate the support of my tennis committee and all of the pros and the people who participated. It couldn’t have happened without them.”  

Thanks to all who made it possible, and we’ll see you for the Second Annual next year! Game, set, match…T A


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. Dear T.A. Niles:
      Bravo on your excellent coveralge of the Hank Memorial tournamet. Your written coverage and pictures are great. I know that Patsy appreciates all that you did.
      Stacy B. Prater

    2. Hi Stacy, not sure why you removed your comment, but I appreciate it! Spoke with Pat this morning and she did appreciate it. See you around the courts. T A

    3. Ah, there it is again :). When I first came on it said the comment was deleted.

  2. T.A.,

    You did wonderful job on the coverage of the tournament. What a beautiful tribute to Hank and the tournament in general. The fact that you take your valuable time and energy to put out your blog is an amazing gift you give all the tennis junkies of Fort Myers. THANK YOU!!!

    Tracy DiBiase

    1. Thanks Tracy! Congrats on a great job on the court Sunday! I appreciate your reading and taking the time to comment :). See at Park Meadow soon...