Love 50: Rosemary serves up half a century of dedication

Love 50: Rosemary serves up half a century of dedication

Bob ‘The Cat’ Bevan pays tribute to a remarkable career in tennis coaching at the St John’s Club

‘I’VE just always wanted people to love playing tennis,’ says Rosemary Snook, whose feeling for coaching is as strong today as it was when she first took four little girls under her wing 50 years ago.

Growing up in her parents’ pub, the Rose and Crown in Tunbridge Wells, Rosemary was 11 years old before she first picked up a racket.

‘My parents didn’t have much time but a lady called Audrey Stapleton was coaching in the local recreation ground and my love affair started from day one,’ she reveals. She carried on coaching until she was 93!’

By the time she was 17 Rosemary was the national schools champion, an accolade which saw her win two weeks coaching with Lew Hoad in Malaga, Spain. Her male counterpart that year was John Feaver, who went on to play in the Davis Cup.

Sadly a slipped disc put her out of action for a year but despite the setback she was good enough to enter the Wimbledon qualifying tournaments on three occasions.

Rosemary was ranked ninth in the UK at under-21 level and represented England in a full international against Wales.

She was ranked second behind Virginia Wade in Kent and often played with her. Rosemary recalls: ‘She tried to take every shot if she could and, of course, we were both left-side players so you can imagine who had to play on the right.’

She also featured in many pre-Wimbledon tournaments, once playing against the legendary Australian Evonne Goolagong, later Crawley.

After meeting husband Stephen at Frinton Tennis Week she spent two years in Saudi Arabia, coaching and twice winning the Eastern Province Championship.

Back in England, tennis took a back seat as she started a family but she was soon back at the Nevill Club in Tunbridge Wells before switching to St John’s Tennis Club 20 years ago.

Those four little girls, 50 years ago, paid just 25 pence for a lesson. ‘That quid was very handy for me at the time,’ said Rosemary.

In a local newspaper report some 45 years ago she is quoted as saying that when playing became less important she wanted to start coaching to give something back to the game.

Then in her early 20s, she added: ‘By the age of 30 most players are past their best so it is important that I train hard and play to win.’

Still very fit at the age of 67, she can celebrate half a century of giving back to the game she loves as much today as she did when she was 11.

Might she aim for Mrs Stapleton’s record and still be coaching at 93? Don’t bet against it.

PICTURE: HIGH COURT: Rosemary Snook was a regular partner for Wimbledon champion Virginia Wade

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