Tennis Industry magazine


Passionate Players: Rallying for the Cause

The All Iowa Lawn Tennis Club comes back from tragedy with a unique event for junior players.

By Mark Winters

July 2016 was both memorable and poignantly painful for Mark Kuhn.

Mark and his wife, Denise, own an 850-acre farm in Charles City, Iowa. In 2003, Mark founded the All Iowa Lawn Tennis Club, building a grass court on a portion of the property where there had been a cattle-feed lot. The purpose of this labor of love was to give local tennis aficionados an opportunity to enjoy the “Wimbledon experience” in his backyard.

Anxious to learn more about the nuances of maintaining a grass tennis court, Mark and his son, Alex, who devoted time to the court’s upkeep, attended Wimbledon in 2015. Their journey to the All England Club inspired Mark to write a memoir, Wimbledon 2015: Dreams Fulfilled & Missions Accomplished.

Last year, Mark went back to Wimbledon, returning home on July 11. Buoyed by the new information he had collected about the complexities of grass-court maintenance, Mark was anxious to utilize his knowledge to improve his own turf.

Sadly, tragedy soon struck. Alex, who had been a member of the Mason City (Iowa) City Council since 2011, was in the middle of a political fight over the construction of a $240 million pork-processing plant. He vehemently opposed the project, and after making his decision known, he was castigated by supporters of the plant construction.

On July 15, overwhelmed by the situation, the 34-year-old took his life.

Dealing with grief is personal, and Mark and Denise went about it privately. “Since Alex died, no one has played on the court,” Mark says. “I had cancelled all the reservations. I just couldn’t host anyone.”

Then they had an idea: The Alex J. Kuhn Memorial Challenge Event.

“Fair play and sportsmanship will be the themes,” says Mark. “I will probably have the youngsters help with dressing the court. I learned from the best at the All England Lawn Tennis Club and would like to share the information with them.”

On June 24 and 25, the popular court — which has been renovated, with rye grass and a repaired irrigation system — will be re-opened for the event, which consists of a 12 & Under team competition between the top boys’ and girls’ teams from Iowa and Minnesota. Both the USTA Missouri Valley and USTA Northern sections support the new tournament. USTA Missouri Valley also provided a grant to purchase individual trophies, as well as a traveling perpetual trophy.

“The court will be renamed in Alex’s honor,” says Mark. “The event will be a way to instill important values in kids, and hopefully remind anyone in need of help to seek professional assistance in dealing with depression.”

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About the Author

Mark Winters, who played college and professional tennis, is a former Junior Davis Cup team and college coach. He spent time as a USTA clinician nationally and in the Middle East. He has written about the game for more than 25 years, with his stories appearing in Tennis Week and Florida Tennis as well as the Los Angeles Times and a host of international publications.



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