Bowman deserves introduction in state tennis hall

Buddy Bowman received two phone calls and subsequent voicemails from Gary Jones in mid-December. Jones, a friend of Bowman’s who is the president of the Arkansas Tennis Association, would not disclose the reason for the call, Bowman recalled, at least until he heard from his friend.

“I thought he wanted to get me on the tennis court, which I don’t want,” Bowman said with a chuckle. “I don’t get close as I used to.”

Jones didn’t call to play. Instead, he called Bowman to inform him that he had been selected by the Arkansas branch of the United States Tennis Association as the inductee of the Arkansas Tennis Hall of Fame for 2022.

Born in Little Rock, Bowman spanned four decades and saw him become a notable player, coach and instructor.

Bowman started playing tennis at age 9, eventually becoming the state’s top-ranked junior player. At Little Rock Parkview, he was a two-time state champion, winning in singles in 1974 and 1975. He was also a member of the University of Arkansas tennis team from 1975-1979 and participated in the NCAA Championships three times, representing the Razorbacks in singles.

After playing in Arkansas, Bowman spent time as an associate pro at Rebsamen Tennis Center in Little Rock and Burns Park Tennis Center in North Little Rock. He served as a tennis coach for the University of Central Arkansas in 1983-84 while taking graduate classes. After his time at UCA, Bowman was the head pro at the Wimbledon Sportsplex in Memphis in 1986-89. He became the tennis director of Burns Park Tennis Center in 1990 and held that position for 12 years.

In Bowman’s more than ten years at Burns Park, the USTA game continued to host, although for a period it focused on hosting women’s tennis events. Those events hosted players from more than a dozen countries. Bowman also partnered with the North Little Rock Housing Authority to offer tennis lessons at Burns Park for children ages 7-12 who lacked the appropriate equipment or previous tennis experience.

Reflecting on his tennis career, Bowman said he felt he was most influenced by the relationships he built.

“When we were [growing up] in Little Rock in the mid-1960s, there was a group of kids, and I could name them all, and the reason is because we helped each other,” Bowman said. “We were able to all work together for about 10 years, believe it or not, and from that group, I think at least half of us got an athletic scholarship.

“In other words, the idea of ​​a community, I think, is really important to success because you can help each other. It’s not one against the other. I was lucky that was the time I got to experience that, and maybe it can happen again [for others].”

Bowman was to be recognized along with other award winners at a Jan. 21 banquet at the Hilton Garden Inn in North Little Rock, though the banquet was postponed due to concerns over Covid-19. This year’s banquet is unlikely to be rescheduled, according to Arkansas Tennis Association Executive Director Deanna Garretson, and it’s likely Bowman will be honored along with the inductees at next year’s banquet.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.