The Wall of Fame is a way to honor those individuals who were outstanding in the game of tennis in the history of Billings. These people fit into one of 3 categories: Players of Distinction, Coaches and Administrators of Note, and Tennis Contributors.
Players of Distinction accomplished much on court; their mark was made during competition and their record speaks for itself.
Coaches and Administrators of Note helped others be better by their actions. These people are usually the ones behind the scenes, the organizers of tennis for the masses.
Tennis Contributors are those people who through their contributions to others and their conduct in life added to the betterment of the tennis family in Billings. Unique individuals, these people are important, for the tale of their lives are inspirational for the rest of us.
As one expects, the Players list is the largest of the group of noted people in Billings tennis history.
Coaches and Administrators:
Dave Klarich: Dave was the coach for tennis at Billings Senior High School for many years and had a number of individual champions and team championships to his credit.
Steve Handley: recently retired from coaching, Steve won over a dozen team championships with his teams at Billings West and worked with many great players during his time there; his influence with youth is still felt today as he is the Head Tennis Professional at the Yellowstone Country Club.
Robert E. Lee: origninaly from New Jersey and an all-sports background, Bob Lee came to the west to attend college in Denver after serving in World War II; he became the football coach at Eastern Montana College in the early 1960's and developed a tennis program, also; he was the only coach of tennis for the first 19 years of the program and was instrumental in getting courts built on campus; his teams were perennial winners in the NAIA District 5 Region.
Players of Distinction:
Toni Rosell: another in the long line of state high school champions, Toni Rosell played tennis well into her adult life; she was a player in many tournaments at Pioneer and a member of the Billings Tennis Association in the formative years
Donna Skates: a high school champion, college player at U of Montana, and female champion in Montana, Donna was one of those people who was a winner at every age; she is also famous as the mother of nationally ranked and very successful children who are still in the game today.
Peter Verduin: a former high school champion from Billings Senior, Peter was a fiery competitor who was a perfectionist; Pete was nationally ranked as a 15 year old and played national tournaments; he is remembered also for being the instigator of the first indoor tennis center, the Yellowstone Racquet Club, in Montana, and the club's first manager and pro; he is also important as he developed a number of great juniors, including Don Harris and Paul Larson.
Players of Distinction:
Nikos Ridle: Nikos was a tremendous junior player who was ranked in each age division in the Intermountain and also nationally; he won the most exciting high school final match in the history of tennis in Montana as a sophomore when he bested 2-time champ Ty Priest, his teammate at Billings West, in a long 3-set final, 7-6 in the final set; Nik went on to win the championship in the AA the next 2 years, also, to become a rare 3 year winner; as an adult, Nikos had a great 2 year run in the men's open championship at the Montana State Open, winning the event 2 times in dramatic fashion, as he was tremendously talented as an athlete; Nikos played college tennis in the tough ACC for Wake Forest.
Roger Megerth: 4-time Montana high school champion from Missoula, we in Billings adopted Roger after his #1 playing days in college at Cal-Poly Pomona, as he was on the first staff at Billings West and coached the tennis teams there to a record number of state championships for both boys and girls; Roger also has a number of men's open singles and doubles championships to his credit.
Mike Hogarty: former #1 ranked junior boy in Montana, Mike was also Montana State Open Men's Singles champion in 1964. He was ranked #1 in Montana, Men's Open, played as the #1 player at University of Montana and was the #1 player in the Skyline Conference in 1960 and played in the NCAA Men's Tournament the same year.
Players of Distinction:
Rainey Lamey: A 3-time champion in the days when 9th graders were not allowed to play high school athletics, Rainey was a rarity in high school tennis; she was an athlete who could do things the other kids could not and played a forcing game, choosing to come to the net at all opportunities; she went on to become the youngest player ever to win the Montana women's open championship at 15; her college tennis was played at U of Michigan.
Carolyn Babcock: the highest ranked female player in the history of Billings tennis; Carolyn was the daughter of the Babcock Theatre family and actually moved to California at a younger age, but was ranked #3 in women's singles in the US in 1933 and played on the Wightman Cup Team with the famous Helen's (Moody and Wills).
Paul Larson: there are few words that can describe Paul Larson's accomplishments; as a sophomore in high school at the state tournament, a ball that came off his own frame struck him in the eye and denied his opportunity to win 3 state titles, as he had to settle for 2, during which he was undeafeated for those years; during this time he was ranked as high as 5 in the Intermountain in his age divisions; he went on to play varsity tennis for U-Cal Berkley, where the highlight of his career was winning at Stanford, when he bested former #1 in the US Jake Warde in his match; Paul won or lost in men's open singles championship match in the Montana State Open 7 times in his adult play.
Players of Distinction:
Glen Nolte: Glen is a special person in tennis history in Billings; very few people in the US have ever won a National Championship, winning one entitles the winner to a USTA Gold Ball and Glen won a National Men's 85 Singles Championship; he was tough and had a great attitude.
Kenneth L. Simmons: the highest ranked male player in the history of Billings tennis; Kenneth was #1 in the Intermountain in men's singles in 1921; he was #1 on his team at Yale; he was also # 20 in the USA at that time.
Rochelle Auer: Rochelle is the definition of perfection; during her junior playing days, she won over 100 tournaments (most would be thrilled to have won 100 matches) and was always ranked in the Intermountain; she went to high school at Billings West and won 4 high school titles, as she was in the group that was in high school as 9th graders and she was ready to go; a gifted thinker, she was never out of a point and always looked like she was in control of the match.
Players of Distinction:
Mary Alice Burnett: easily the longest reigning champion of Pioneer Park, M.A., as she was affectionately known by Jack, has played with everyone for over 50 years in the center of tennis in Montana at Pioneer; Mary Alice has won many titles during her life and serves as an inspiration to all to keep playing.
Jack Burnett: the consumate competitor, Jack holds a number of titles in Montana and out; Jack was proudest of having been the only man ever to win the men's open singles and the 35's on the same day at the Montana State Open, a feat he achieved in 1957; he also won a title in the men's 65's in a huge tournament in Seattle;like Mary Alice, Jack was found playing at Pioneer every day for decades.
Farley Taylor: a Billings girl who actually went to school at the Lawrenceville Academy in New Jersey, Farley developed into a great player; she was ranked #2 in girls 18 singles in the Intermountain and #1 in doubles; her ranking in the juniors nationally was also very high in singles and doubles; she played college tennis at Texas and was instumental in one of the most exciting NCAA finals of all time when as a freshman, playing #2 doubles, defeated Stanford's duo so Texas could win the team championship, in 3 tough sets.
Another plaque was installed in 2008. These three players all were ranked #1 in Montana in every age division they played in junior tennis. Sean and Missy played at Senior; Ty at West.
Ty Priest: 2-time AA champion in boys singles and 2nd as a senior; ranked top 5 in ITA in jr divisions; played at Concordia College in Minnesota, All-American, Division III NCAA tennis.
Sean Harris: 3-time AA champion in boys singles; undefeated in high school play; ranked top 5 in Intermountain tennis association boys divisions; currently playing # 2-3 for West Point Academy with a national ranking.
Missy Harris: 3-time AA champion in girls singles; undefeated in high school play; ranked top 2-3 in ITA jrs; ranked in top girls in the nation; currently playing college tennis at MSU-Bozeman.
Our last plaque was installed in the summer of 2009 and featured three presently active members of the Billings tennis community.
Jerry Peach: currently the head tennis coach at MSU Billings, where he guided the Yellowjacket women to their first-ever NCAA Division II national tournament appearance last spring. He previously coached at Montana State. He was ITA national collegiate coach of the year as well as conference coach of the year in the Big Sky Conference and Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference.
Eileen Pinkerton: she started the tennis program at Billings Central and coached the Central boys and girls teams for 14 years. She has served as president and vice president of the Billings Tennis Association, served as the Eastern Montana representative of the Montana Tennis Association, served on the committee to organize the building of the MSU Billings tennis bubble, served on the committee to resurface the courts at Pioneer Park, Central Park and Lillis Park, and was recognized as the Intermountain volunteer of the year in 1998.
Pat Eastman: served on the board of the Billings Tennis Association for more than 30 years. She has also organized annual tournaments such as the Labor Day Open and the Big Sky State Games and has taught tennis lessons for many years.