Class of 1982
It’s only fitting that Tom Pettitt, a person who dedicated his life to the sports of court tennis and lawn tennis, would be laid to rest in Newport, Rhode Island, where he became one of the first teaching pros at the Newport Casino and the site where the greatest tennis players are honored.
Pettitt’s specialty was court tennis and he later became adept at lawn tennis. At age 17, he left his home of Beckenham, Kent, England and headed for Boston. Upon arrival in the United States, he was hired as a dressing-room boy at Boston Tennis & Racquet Club, a private court tennis club. Pettitt had aptitude and a keen knack for the sport, and quickly rose to become the club’s head tennis professional.
He caught the competitive bug, and eager to showcase his wares, traveled back to England and Europe, honing his considerable skills and was one of the game’s first touring players and instructors. In 1885, he challenged world champion player George Lambert for the World Championship. Played at the Royal Tennis Court at Hampton Court Palace, Pettitt won his match over Lambert and successfully defended his title in Dublin in 1890. He retired later that year in a fashion all athletes wish they could emulate: undefeated on his own terms.
Court tennis and later lawn tennis were two immensely important staples in Pettit’s life. Pettitt remained in Boston teaching tennis through 1927, and then relocated to Newport, Rhode Island. Learning the game of lawn tennis in 1876, he spent his summer months in Newport, becoming one of the first teaching pros at the Newport Casino where he served as a supervisor until his death in 1946.