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Osborne, Forester-Leong enter isle’s Hall of Fame

  • HONOLULU STAR-ADVERTISER
    Muriel Osborne was a standout player, winning a national title as a teenager, and was the matriarch of one of Hawaii's most prominent tennis families
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This year’s USTA Hawaii Pacific Section Tennis Hall of Fame induction ceremony will be bittersweet, sure to be full of fond memories and reasons why Muriel Osborne and Jane Forester-Leong are missed by so many.

Osborne, who probably won more tennis titles than any Hawaii woman in history, died two years ago at age 83. She will be inducted in the player category.

Leong will be inducted in the nonplayer category after helping Hawaii become the largest USTA section, per capita, during her 21-year career, spent mostly as executive director. The section’s first employee retired in 2001 and has been suffering from Alzheimer’s disease for much of the last decade.

The section basically started in her condo, with a typewriter, two boxes, fewer than 1,000 members and a budget of $1,500. By the time she left, there were 6,600 members, a budget of some $700,000 and a long list of loyal—often over-qualified—employees and volunteers.

Leong’s legacy is one of inclusion. She treated everyone from beginners and volunteers to elite players and legends such as Nick Bollettieri and Jack Kramer with the same charm and dignity. She pushed hard to start adult leagues for weekend players and offer every child who wanted to experience tennis an affordable opportunity.

She helped start Tennis Weekend, the section’s major fundraiser now heading toward its 25th anniversary, and Hawaii’s presence on the USTA’s satellite tours.

Osborne was the matriarch of one of Hawaii’s most prominent tennis families, and a remarkable player in her own right. She won her first tournament in 1941—the U.S. Lawn Tennis Association Girls 18s—and there would be some 200 more trophies to come, including two "silver balls" at senior nationals. Osborne was winning tournaments into her 70s.

She was the Honolulu Quarterback Club’s Female Athlete of the Year in 1970. Later, she helped raise money to send Hawaii juniors to mainland tournaments, a practice that continues today with the annual Muriel Osborne Hawaii Tennis Award.

Osborne’s husband, Jim, was an accomplished player, as were their four children. Jim Jr. was the first inductee into the section’s Hall of Fame, in 2005. He was ranked among the top 10 in the world when he played on the pro tour and in the Davis Cup. He coached Brigham Young tennis for 15 years.

Muriel Osborne and Leong will be officially inducted Oct. 2 at the Ala Moana Hotel, during Tennis Weekend.

Previous inductees were Jim Schwitters and Vailima Watson (2009), Rick Fried and Robert Keaunui (2008), Hattie Somerville and Schwitters (in the nonplayer category, in 2007), and Suzi Swartman and Don Andrews (2006). Jim Osborne Jr. and Shigesh Wakida were the initial inductees in 2005.

In other tennis news, some 35 teams participated in the inaugural Family Fun Doubles Tournament at Diamond Head Tennis Center on Sunday. All proceeds will go to improving the complex, including the resurfacing of the courts.

The event was put on by the City and County of Honolulu, USTA Hawaii Pacific Section and Friends of Diamond Head Tennis. This was the first organized tournament hosted by DHTC in three years because of its poor condition, and the first USTA family tournament here in more than 20 years, according to the section.

The winning teams were David and Kawika Lam (A/open), Dickson and Jaryd Ma (B/intermediate) and Gene and Dylan Yong (C/beginner).

For more information on Friends of Diamond Head Tennis, visit friendsofdiamondheadtennis.org.

 

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