The Flint Tennis Club traces its roots to 1922, when the City of Flint built six clay courts in Kearsley Park on the city’s east side.
In 1933, a group of tennis enthusiasts decided an actual organization was needed. They called it the Flint Tennis Commission. The leaders were Roscoe “Buck” Burgess, Herm Struck and J.D. McCallum. Also present were Joe Struck, Emil Lindstrom, George Armitage, Ann and Agnes Nester and Peg Hammond. The best local players were among them.
The group organized and ran tournaments, in particular the Flint Novice and City Championship. It also sponsored a team that competed against teams from Saginaw, Bay City, Midland and Owosso.
In September 1937 a group met to form an organization linked with a new clay-court facility to be built on city-owned property off Hammerberg Road, bordered by Swartz Creek and just east of city-run Swartz Creek Golf Course.
Attending that meeting were James Burroughs, Dee Cramer, Harold Carpenter, Palmer Crawford, Maurie Cossman, Frank Manley and James Rice. Burroughs was elected president and Charles Mobley club manager.
The site was part of a 10-acre parcel donated to the city by George Kellar, a prominent developer and former Flint mayor. He made the gift in 1924, requiring that it used for public recreation.
The site was known as Kellar Park and is where the Flint Tennis Club is today. Our research has not determined the fate of the Kearsley Park courts. City parks officials had made it clear they did want to continue maintaining those courts.
Workers from the Depression-era Works Progress Association started work on the eight Kellar Park courts in 1937. The first two were ready for play the following year. City officials gave their blessing to assessing players an annual five-dollar fee to cover maintaining the courts and grounds. The fees were to be collected by the newly formed Flint Tennis Club.
Before most area high schools built courts and before asphalt courts were built in parks, the club was the community tennis hub. It club hosted tournaments that drew players from all over the state. Competition was intense in the tournaments serving area players.
The opening of the Flint Swim and Racquet Club in the mid-1960s and the former Genesee Valley Tennis Club in 1971 drew some players away from the FTC. Still, membership remained strong.
In 1986, the courts and clubhouse were renovated under the leadership of the late Paul Body and former president Ed Flynn.
The club has continued to host competition open to the community such as the Olympian and CANUSA games. The courts also have been used for matches hosted by girls and boys teams from nearby Powers Catholic High School.
Once upon a time, before the advent of asphalt courts, natural clay courts could be found in several cities around Michigan. Today, so-called clay courts typically are composed of red clay (sometimes crushed red brick) or Har-Tru, a patented system involving layers of different material.
The club’s natural “yellow” clay courts are the only remaining such courts in Michigan. They require the combined efforts of a part-time employee and volunteers to maintain.
So, while the club is a membership organization, it continues to be the Flint area’s outdoor tennis home. You are welcome to come down and experience tennis on clay at no charge. Just send an e-mail telling us when you are available.