All About The Greater Des Moines Tennis Association
In the middle 1940s Gene Middlebrook, as a member of the Des Moines Park Board, set out a long-range plan to develop Birdland and Waveland tennis courts from clay to hard surface. In 1946 Des Moines celebrated what was known as Hawkeye Holidays, around the 4th of July, including a mixture of athletic events, one of which was a tennis tournament known appropriately as the Hawkeye Holidays Open.
About this time Middlebrook, a former Roosevelt High School player, joined with Jack Buss, a three-year Drake player, Harold McCollum, a former University of Iowa letterman, and a few other tennis enthusiasts to form the Des Moines Tennis Association (DMTA). This association undertook the responsibility of running the Hawkeye Holidays Open which became the Hawkeye Open and continued for many years, although it was sponsored for the last few years by the Central Iowa Tennis Alliance.
From the beginning, the DMTA helped junior players with expenses incurred by traveling to and playing in local, state, and national tournaments. In 1952 it established a ladder tournament system for its adult and junior members, which helped determine which juniors were given financial help and which adults were chosen to represent Des Moines in intercity matches with Ames, Iowa City, Cedar Rapids, and Omaha.
The Association has over the years sponsored annual tournaments known as the Central Iowa Doubles and the Monkeyshine Open, which were one-day events attended by players from Des Moines and nearby areas. On some other occasions, season-opening and season-ending round-robin singles events have been held for members only.
One of the stated purposes in the bylaws of the Greater Des Moines Tennis Association (GDMTA), as it is now known, is to provide nominal scholarships for needy juniors, to assist promising players with lessons, clinics, tennis equipment, etc.
At least four youngsters who took part in the DMTA ladders went on to become tennis professionals. Bill Rompf has served many clubs, including the Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy, and was more recently Director of Tennis at the Newport Casino Lawn Tennis Club, the location of the International Tennis Hall of Fame
Roger Knapp, who attained a #1 National Ranking for Age 21 and Under Amateur Division, later toured the world in the Grand Prix pro circuit.
Beverly Buckley has been the women’s tennis coach at Rollins College.
Bob Peterson has been the tennis pro at 7 Flags in Clive and more recently served the Ames Racquet Club during the indoor season and the Des Moines Golf and Country Club in the summer.
Several Des Moines political and business leaders have benefited from DMTA membership and ladder participation, and the DMTA has certainly benefited financially from their personal and business contributions for special events. Among those in this group are former Governor Robert Ray, Roger Brooks, Barry Griswell, Bill Knapp, Marvin Pomerantz, Sheldon Rabinowitz, and Bill Reichardt.
There are also 19 members of the Iowa Tennis Association Hall of Fame who have been GDMTA ladder participants, namely: Al Baetz, Ben Beckerman, Frank Brody, Beverly Buckley, Jack Buss, Harris Coggeshall, Dorothy Dunn, Fay Dunn, Harry Dunn, Alice Eaton, Harold Johnson, Harold McCollum, Margaret McCollum, Gene Middlebrook, John Milton, Sheila Pearl, Arden Stokstad, Lloyd Stokstad, and Gerry Van Ginkel.
One of the larger projects that the GDMTA has undertaken was the renaming of Waveland Tennis Courts as the “McCollum-Waveland Tennis Complex” in honor of Harold and Margaret McCollum in 2007. Harold and Margaret were among the group that started what was then called the Des Moines Tennis Association in the mid-1940s. Harold recalled keeping the GDMTA ladder match records on recipe cards and mimeographing the ladder lists to mail to the members. In his handwritten thank you letter to the GDMTA for this honor he shared some interesting tidbits about the early days of Waveland and of the GDMTA. He said that he first played there at age 9 in 1926, when there were 7 fenced-in club member courts and one public court for kids like him.
The Greater Des Moines Tennis Association’s current emphasis is on ladder participation. There are many divisions to accommodate men and women of all ages and all abilities for singles and doubles. Members also have occasional social events held on public courts or one of the indoor clubs. Applications for membership can be obtained online at www.GDMTA.com.
Written by Harold McCollum, with editing and updating by Mark Schmidt, GDMTA board secretary.