Mawdesley, Lancashire, tennis club triumphs
PUBLISHED: 16:11 21 June 2010 | UPDATED: 17:23 20 February 2013
Mawdesley has one of Lancashire's most successful tennis clubs and its own Wimbledon legend. Amanda Griffiths reports
George Walker can tell a tale or two, especially when it comes to that celebration of strawberries, sunshine and showers known as Wimbledon Fortnight. For George, now in his 80s, has umpired some of the legends of tennis and he has the green jacket to prove it.
The president of Mawdesley Tennis Club spent 20 years making crucial decisions and keeping the peace at the worlds premier tournament. Ironically, it all started thanks to a downpour.
I umpired McEnroe three or four times and I was on centre court when he beat Borg, says George. I started umpiring in 1968 when it was mainly voluntary though now the top positions are filled by full time professionals.
He began umpiring tennis when he was working in Africa. I came back to this country and went to Wimbledon as a spectator. It started raining and I got talking to one of the umpires and thats how I got into it.
In spite of his years, George still relishes the start of each season and he still played until incurring a shoulder injury in September last year.
He was recently made life president of the Mawdesley club which has been celebrating its 40th anniversary. And celebration is the right word as members managed to achieve an all time high level of success.
Im very proud of them, says George. Theyve been doing well for a number of years but last year was just great. The first team had been promoted to first division and finished third. That was a great achievement considering they normally end up dropping back down the next. They remained unbeaten for some time.
The fact our fifth team was promoted from propping up the bottom division was another great achievement.
Lydia Hale, who looks after marketing and publicity, adds: It was a very successful season for all five of our teams. Three earned promotion and two finished in third place.
Its not very often you have such strong success across the board. It certainly hasnt happened in the time that Ive been here. It just seems to have got better and better in the last three years.
As our success has grown weve attracted more members. Wimbledon certainly spurs everyone on - in fact, the whole of the village goes a bit tennis crazy during the tournament. The amount of kids we have down here during the two weeks is unbelievable and a lot of adults we havent seen before come down for a game. The trick is encouraging them to stay and play.
Member Sam Rogerson has been playing in national tournaments in the under-16 category. He is improving all the time and is considered future Wimbledon material.
Its going to be a big couple of years for him, but if he carries on playing as well as he is theres no reason he couldnt make it, says Lydia.
The club, founded in 1969, has grown from a small village facility to become a strong competitor in the Southport and District League and now boasts around 150 junior members and 80 seniors.
Our junior section is the clubs other big success, says Lydia. Weve got great coaches and have been encouraging children to come to try free taster sessions to see if they like it.
If you get taught properly when youre young it really helps when you get older. You pick up the right skills early on and develop them as you get older.
Weve also got a sixth team, basically its a friendly-team, that encourages new members and juniors to play senior tennis and helps us select members for the other teams.
Based at Mawdesley Village Hall, the club has four hard surface, all-weather courts as well as a new clubhouse built with funds raised by members.
Our members come from all around the area; during the winter we train on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday and theres social tennis on Friday and Sunday afternoons as well. Then, in the summer we will be playing matches. Theres a lot of commitment involved.
Were also different from some other local groups in the way we select our teams. Its done on a combination of ability and commitment.
So what are the clubs hopes for 2010, considering the success of last year? I think really to continue that success and improve even further, says Lydia.