For the love of the game

Each athlete comes from a different background, but each shares a passion for the sport, and all were honored last week for their work in tennis — a high school student, a hall of fame inductee, and a pair of twins who are part of a family award.

Jane Hirota Pang

Jane Hirota Pang was inducted into the Hall of Fame Player Award at the Tennis Hall of Fame and Annual Awards Banquet at the Ala Moana Hotel in Honolulu.

Growing up, Hirota chased tennis balls for her parents, who played on the courts behind the old Lihue Library that is now the Kauai Museum. She picked up the racket and played against a door until she could play on the courts.

“I started playing with the men of the Lihue Tennis League back in the plantation days,” said Hirota Pang.

Her tennis teacher was the late Charlie Sasaki, who she said donated his time to any child who wanted to learn. Hirota was a member of the 1958 Kauai High School tennis team that won the state title.

“That was something for a nobody from Kauai beating the players from Honolulu,” she said.

While on the National College of Education team in Evanston, Ill., Hirota placed three consecutive Intercollegiate Mid West Tournaments, including a win against Northwestern University her senior year.

After school, Hirota competed on USTA League teams and has maintained a national ranking in her age groups with continued success in both women’s and mixed doubles events.

Hirota and mixed doubles partner Richard Klein won at the 2012 Senior Open National tournament in Scottsdale, Ariz. In July, she placed second in the mixed doubles over 70 with partner William Eby, and gold in women’s doubles over 70 with partner Lurline Fujii at the Senior Olympics in Cleveland.

Hirota, who lives on Oahu, still plays tennis three days a week. She said it’s about her will to keep going, learning and trying new techniques.

“I think my greatest tennis achievement is playing competitive tennis at my age of 72 and still enjoying the challenge,” she said. “My goal is to continue as long as I can. One is never too old to learn and to improve even a little bit.”

“I am honored to be inducted unexpectedly to the tennis Hall of Fame in Hawaii,” she said. “Tennis has been a wonderful sport for me as it has taken me to many parts of the world meeting and making so many friends. Thank you Charlie and Kauai for giving me a positive start in life.”

Lani Rae Green

The Jim Howe Sportsmanship Girl Award recipient is Lani Rae Green, a Waimea High School senior who was honored for sportsmanship. The award could have gone to anyone, Green said.

“Personally, it feels great to be invited as a recipient and I didn’t expect this and feel lucky to be honored,” she said. “It’s one of the nicer events and I am kind of excited coming from the small town of Kekaha.”

With a scholarship to play tennis for the University of California-Davis in the fall, Green said her goal is to play tennis at a school with a great wildlife biology program.

Green started playing tennis at age 5 and competing at age 9. As an only child, she said tennis started as an individual sport, and became a team exercise in high school. She enjoys building positive relationships with people who support one another at the competitions.

“Tennis has taught me to believe in myself,” Green said.

Each summer, she travels to the Mainland as a member of the All-Hawaii team that competes in the West Coast Region. This led to her being recruited to big tennis schools.

“In Hawaii you have to work hard to be noticed and you have to put yourself out there and really want it,” Green said.

Kauai District Tennis Association President Carolyn Lum said Lani Rae started young and has supportive parents who allowed her to travel to off-island camps. This helped improve her competitive abilities and led to the scholarship to a major college.

“Lani has always had very positive attitude and keeps a smile on her face,” Lum said.

Helen Young

The KDTA Service Award went to Helen Young, the KDTA board treasurer for the past five years.

“I just enjoy doing this for the tennis players of Kauai,” Young said. “We encourage various age groups to play tennis here on the island and we have different programs that work with different age groups.”

Lum said that Young didn’t start playing tennis until her daughters were on the high school team. Young’s enthusiasm for tennis soon made her a KDTA league captain, and she enjoys doing the meticulous accounting work for the organization, Lum added.

“Helen started taking lessons in her 40s and playing against others who grew up with tennis,” Lum said. “She has gone out of her way to keep the sport alive for older generations.”

The Osborne family

The Family of the Year Award is perhaps the most accomplished tennis family ever in Hawaii — The Osborne family.

The family was based on Oahu but the two youngest members, Diane Treskon of Wailoua, and Carol Surratt of the Kalaheo, are 59 year-old twins who are both level 4.5 players.

Raised on Oahu with parents James Howard Osborne Sr., and Muriel (Moffitt) Osborne, the family was at the center of Hawaii tennis for decades.

James was a founding member of the Punahou Tennis Club in 1951. He helped establish the Patrons Association to sponsor junior tennis player from Hawaii to compete at Mainland tournaments.

James played and coached tennis into his 80s and passed away in 2012.

Muriel won more than 200 singles, doubles and mixed open titles including second in the National 45 and over division with her partner, Doris Hakman, in 1979 and 1981. She was named Hawaii Women Athlete of the Year in 1970 and inducted posthumously to the Hall of Fame in 2010 after passing away in 2008 at age 83.

“Tennis was a big part of her life,” Treskon said. “Mother was number one in the state for 30 years.”

The Hawaii Community Foundation established the Muriel Osborne Hawaii Tennis Award each year to two competitive junior female players.

The parent’s associations through tennis helped their kids win tennis scholarships to Punahou School, Treskon said.

The twins won several singles and doubles titles and were regularly ranked tops in the state through high school.

After marrying husbands who relocated to Kauai in 1974, the twins started competing again in their 40s. As members of the Insinc team with Tammie Quinlan, Louta Zoller, Judy Mince, Sue Anderson and Valerie Rekward, they won the USTA Hawaii Pacific Sectional title in 2012.

“Tennis has been a major portion of our lives and it has helped to keep us young,” said Surratt of the family. “We enjoyed it and we were good at it.”

Their elder brother Jim Osborne, 68, was a professional tennis player who won five open doubles titles and placed in others between 1968 and 1972. His partners were Jim McManus and Clark Graebner.

He was a member of the Junior Davis Cup Team, a three-time Collegiate All-American, and a NCAA Tournament Semi-finalist. As a professional he won nine doubles titles with wins over Arthur Ashe, Stan Smith, Roy Emerson and Rod Laver.

Osborne lives in Utah where he operated his own clubs and coached tennis at Brigham Young and the University of Utah-Salt Lake City. He was already named individually to the Hall in 2005.

The President’s Award recipient is Henry Somerville, a tennis pro in Honolulu. His parent’s Hattie and John Somerville live in Poipu, and Hattie, who is also in the Hall of Fame, was once a Doubles partner of Muriel Osborne.

Carolyn Lum invites people of any ability to Kauai Community College on Saturdays for junior lessons at 9 a.m., followed by adult play at 10 a.m.

• Tom LaVenture, staff writer, can be reached at 245-0424 or by emailing tlaventure@thegardenisland.com.

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