The History of Tennis at Kiawah
Since opening in 1976, our tennis facilities and instructors have received top rankings and honors from the most respected authorities in the game. Our current awards include:
Ranked No. 1 Tennis Resort in the World by TennisResortsOnline.com 2015 – 2018
Ranked in Top 6 of the “50 Best U.S. Tennis Resorts” by Tennis Magazine
May 1976: Resort Opens
Tennis has played a major role at Kiawah Island Golf Resort since the property opened the weekend of May 1, 1976 when the West Beach Tennis Club offered guests seven clay courts and two lit hard courts. To kick off the program, Roscoe Tanner, Kiawah’s touring professional and then-ranked in top 10 in the world, played Tom Gorman in a singles exhibition. Director of Tennis, Roy Barth, and local pro Bob Joyner played in the doubles exhibition with Gorman and Tanner, whose career highlights included winning the Australian Open.
1976 – 1984: Pro Exhibitions
Over the next several years, Roscoe Tanner continued to bring in fellow touring professionals twice annually for singles and doubles exhibitions. Top touring pros included Stan Smith, Chris Evert, Cliff Drysdale, Marty Riessen, Harold Soloman, V.J. Armitraj, Tom Gorman, Dennis Ralston, Peter Fleming, Tim Wilkison and doubles greats, Tim and Tom Gullikson.
1977 – 1981: Facilities Expansion
An additional seven clay courts were added to West Beach Tennis Club, transforming it into a 16-court facility.
1979: Preview to the US Open
Roscoe Tanner brought in Wimbledon semi-finalist Pat Dupre, and NCAA Singles finalist John Sadri, multiple Grand Slams Champion Chris Evert and her husband, John Lloyd, plus Kathy Horvath for a Preview to the US Open. A variety of matches were played back to back, four days before the start of the 1979 US Open at Flushing Meadows, New York.
1982 – 1984: New Facility Opens
The East Beach Tennis Club opened with eight courts (five clay and three hard). Then four more clay courts were added in 1984, creating a total of 28 courts at Kiawah Island Golf Resort for guests’ use and instruction.
1984 – Present: Kiawah Island Junior Clay Court Championship
This sanctioned event has grown from 70 juniors in 1984 to over 350 juniors from throughout the South today. Boys and girls from 10- to 18-years-old compete each year in this popular event. The tournament was awarded the South Carolina Junior Tournament of the Year in 1995.
1987 – 1989: Grand Masters Pro Event
This eight-player “Masters” professional tennis event included the game’s greats such as French and Australian Champion Ken Rosewall, French Open Champion Andres Gimeno, Wimbledon Champion Neal Frazer, Grand Slam Doubles Specialist Bob Hewitt, and US Open Champion Mal Anderson. All players were 45 years or older.
1988 – Present: Southern Senior Closed Clay Court Championship
Senior players from nine Southern states are eligible to play in this USTA Southern closed championship. Age divisions include 30 years & over up to 80 years & older for men and ladies. The events include singles, doubles and mixed doubles with a feed-in-consolation. The tournament averages over 200 players per year.
1990: US Men’s Clay Court Championship
This traditional clay court national championship was held at the East Beach Tennis Club for 64 touring professionals. David Wheaton from Minnesota won his first major title at Kiawah Island Golf Resort. Former tennis greats, Vitas Gerulaitis and Barry McKay, were TV commentators for this exciting event.
1994 – 1996: Facility Improvements
Lighting was added to two more courts, while cabanas with Charleston benches and electric water fountains were put on every court at both Tennis Clubs.
April 1998: Fed Cup Competition—USA vs. the Netherlands
Kiawah hosted the first-round Fed Cup tie between the United States and the Netherlands at the East Beach Tennis Club. The USA team—with such international stars as Lindsay Davenport and Monica Seles—overpowered the Netherlands. Other team members included Mary Jo Fernandez and Lisa Raymond, who played doubles. Legendary Billie Jean King was team captain and coach.
2004: Major Renovations Completed at the East Beach Tennis Club
Improvements to the grounds included a new wood deck and shop entrance, new deck railing, new cement walkways and landscaping. Shop improvements included new carpet, painting and lighting.
January 2006: East Beach Tennis Club Renamed
The East Beach Tennis Club was renamed “The Roy Barth Tennis Center” to recognize 30 years of outstanding service by the resort’s tennis director (now Director Emeritus).