A Perfect Match
A new location and a new coach revitalize the Boston Lobsters tennis team.
by Jacqueline Dixon
The Boston Lobsters are at it again this 2009 season, and
this year is expected to be as exciting as ever. Last March, the
Ferncroft Country Club in Danvers made the North Shore the
team’s permanent home. Bahar Uttam, the team’s owner, had
high hopes that the move to the Ferncroft would help the team
gain popularity-and he sure was right.
Although golf has been the leading sport this side of Massachusetts,
the North Shore’s enthusiasm for tennis has been
growing rapidly since the Lobster’s move to Danvers. The
team’s first season at the Ferncroft brought some much overdue
attention to the team, as well as the sport of tennis. And
although all went well last season, it still served as a learning
curve for the team and all parties involved, and Uttam feels
this year is going to be much easier.
“Moving to the Ferncroft was the right thing to do. The
North Shore has a huge tennis bed with over 40 different
clubs and programs for tennis-everywhere from Woburn to
Manchester. Since the move, we’ve seen a bigger attendance
and we now have more sponsors. People used to ask me why
I was in the seafood business when I mentioned the Boston
Lobsters-I don’t get that question anymore,” Uttam said.
But the move to the Ferncroft is old news, as this year all
eyes are on the team’s new coach, Bud Shultz. When Uttam
purchased the team in 2003, Shultz was the first person he
went to for the coaching position. At the time, however, Shultz
was dedicating a majority of time to his young children. Now,
a few years later, his children are older and Shultz has never
been more ready to take on the job.
Having spent the past 30 years in Eastern Massachusetts,
Shultz has had the chance to develop lasting friendships and
professional acquaintances within the local tennis community.
“All you have to do is walk into a tennis club on the North
Shore and you’ll see that our sport is alive and thriving. The
tennis community is pretty close knit. I’ve met so many great
tennis enthusiasts on the North Shore and I think having
the Lobsters at the Ferncroft Country Club is a perfect
match,” Shultz said.
A graduate of Bates College, Shultz was a three-time tennis
All-American. After only a year of graduate school at Boston
University, he started his professional playing career. With a high
ranking of 39 in the world, wins over 5 top ten players, he retired
in 1989 at the age of 29 to take the position of Director of Tennis
and Head Pro at the Longwood Cricket Club in Brookline. But
he made sure to continue his association with professional tennis
through coaching high ranking players such as Ivan Lendl, Pam
Shriver, and Greg Rusedski.
Adding to his list of already
qualifying credentials, Shultz received
a master’s degree in sports
management at UMass Amherst,
took another position as the Manager
and Head Pro at the Badminton
and Tennis Club in Boston,
served on the Board of the Boston
Tennis Council, and was elected
to the New England Tennis Hall
of Fame in 2002.
With a very successful draft this past March, the team is heading
into the season with confidence, as well as a great mix of old and
new talent. Jan-Michael Gambill is back this season with Raquel
Kops Jones, along with two new tennis up-and-comers, Stepanie
Foretz and James Auckland.
Shultz said, “I know when fans come out to the matches they
will be in awe of the level of play and leave thinking what these
players can do with a tennis ball is magical.”
However, Shultz’s dedication to the sport does not end on the
court. In 1998, he and close tennis buddy Ned Eames, co-founded
Tenacity, an after-school program designed to promote health,
fitness, academics and of course tennis to inner-city children; the
program provides support to over 5,000 children and quickly
“Quite honestly, it’s the most satisfying and rewarding tennis
experience I’ve had. The game of tennis has given me so much
and I simply feel a responsibility
to give back. In a similar way, getting
kids to come see the Lobsters
will hopefully inspire them in positive
ways that will last a lifetime,”
Shultz’s continuous encouragement
for community outreach
makes him a perfect fit
with the Lobsters and the World
Team Tennis philosophy of
Billie Jean King, retired tennis star and co-founder of the World
Team Tennis, firmly believes in equality not only in everyday life,
but within the sport of tennis as well. King’s philosophy, “tennis is
for everyone,” emerged from her family’s financial hardships as a
child, which prevented her from participating in certain programs.
Due to these personal experiences, the act of giving back is of utmost
importantance to King.
“If you have ever seen a World Team Tennis match, you
have seen my philosophy on life. It’s men and women compet-
ing together on equal terms with equal contributions. This is
a great message to share with any community, especially with
young people,” King said.
And the league’s philosophy matches up well with their new
partnership with the YMCA of the North Shore. The YMCA’s
financial assistance program provides programs and services
to over 5,500 individuals on the North Shore, but with only
two tennis rackets and five tennis
balls offering tennis as a program
at the Ipswich branch was
Gerry Beauchamp, the Executive
Director at the Ipswich
YMCA, said, “With about 40,000
members, it is really all about
the kids. And we want to introduce
tennis to a community that
wouldn’t normally be able to experience
After Billie Jean King’s donation of tennis equipment last
year, the YMCA of the North Shore reached out to the Boston
Lobsters in hopes of receiving a similar donation for their lacking
Merri-Lynn Lanthrop, the Ipswich YMCA’s Aquatics Director,
said, “The World Team Tennis offers a fresh new look for
tennis with a fun and unique format. The crowd can cheer or
boo, which isn’t typical tennis. And it is truly family-oriented.
So, the partnership is a great match between the YMCA philosophy
of including “all” and the relatively new World Team
Tennis league’s desire to make tennis accessible to everyone regardless
of income, race or demographic.”
As an exciting affirmation of this partnership, the organizations
are set to co-host “Kids to Camp Connection,” a private event
with Billie Jean King on July 12 at the Sheraton Ferncroft Hotel in
Danvers. There will be an exclusive reception with Billie Jean King,
entertainment by Ayla Brown of
American Idol, box seat tickets to
the Boston Lobsters tennis match
alongside King, and best of all, all
proceeds from ticket sales will help
send a child to camp in 2009.
An even more enticing aspect
to the Boston Lobsters is its aim
to make their events as affordable
as possible. For example, a family
of 4 can attend a match for under
$100, which is much less than a professional baseball game.
This season the Boston Lobsters are hosting a bundle of events to
help families enjoy a day out without emptying their pockets. Very
aware that times are tough, the Boston Lobsters are proving they
can put on a sporting event worth that extra buck.
Along with the much anticipated marquee visit from Washington
Kastles’ Serena Williams on July 9, Massachusetts children ages
13-18 will have the opportunity to write an essay focused on how
Williams inspires them on and off the court. The lucky winner will
receive 2 tickets to the match, meet Williams, as well as grab a picture
with her. The deadline for the submission is June 1 and can be
emailed to Debbie@bostonlobsters.net.
The home opener is set for Monday, July 6 vs. the Kansas City
Explorers, presented by Beverly Hospital. Other events include: Ladies
Night and Business Networking on July 7 and Family Day on
July 18, sponsored by Polar Beverages.
Tickets can be bought online and cost $15-$30 (depending on
the marquee) and $60 for box seats. Tickets for kids under 12 are
$15. Season passes are also available for $125-$300. Tickets can
be purchased by calling 877-617-5626 (LOBS) or visiting the team
website at bostonlobsters.net.