Love is in the Air
by Mike Smith
In those early days of Ocean Reef Club’s operations, Morris Baker recognized the need for guests to be able to do things other than fishing. In 1955, he built a single tennis court and probably never realized the approaching tennis craze. That court was placed directly across Ocean Reef Drive from the concrete block Villa Cay homes also being constructed. In 1966, Juan Weiss, five-time National Tennis Champion in Cuba, was hired as the first Director of Tennis. Soon, two more courts were added with a tennis pavilion. In 1969 after the Bakers sold out to a firm headed by Harper Sibley, Bob Ecuyer, a highly-rated tennis pro from New Orleans, joined Weiss and became Director of Tennis in 1972.
Over the next several years, more courts were added, all in the central core area, bringing the total to fifteen. But still, court time remained a premium causing the Club to limit play to one hour at a time. In 1974, a group of homeowners led by the late Dick Garbisch approached Sibley asking to purchase some land to form their own club in the same way the group from Card Sound Golf Club had done. Sibley was very receptive to the idea, but his creditors, who held liens on the entire property, would not allow the sale of any portion. An agreement was struck with the new group in which a parcel of land would be leased at a very minimal charge. The new group, now The Ocean Reef Racquet Club, built twelve hard courts and a clubhouse. The Racquet Club quickly sold out their memberships and had a waiting list to get in. In 1993, they hired Jim Morton, the then assistant to Ecuyer at Ocean Reef, as Head Tennis Professional.
Juan Weiss, five-time Cuban National Champion and Ocean Reef’s first Director of Tennis.
Another group of Members headed by Ed Sabol, driven by the demand for even more courts, formed the Health and Tennis Club. To attract members, they built a new clubhouse featuring a whirlpool, sauna, player’s lounge and juice bar. This club opened in 1980.
In 1993, after the buyout, Bob Ecuyer became Director of Recreation for Ocean Reef and Jim Morton was hired as Director of Tennis.
In the meantime, the Ocean Reef Club courts were being encroached upon by the expansion of facilities such as Town Hall. Constructed in 2005, Town Hall eliminated eight courts and the tennis pavilion, leaving only five courts. With continued demand for space in the central core area, in 2012 Ocean Reef purchased the Health and Tennis Club with its twelve courts and clubhouse. The structure was improved to include a much-needed card and game center and is today called the Tennis & Games Center. The last two courts remaining in the core area were removed in 2020 when Waterside took its place.
Over the years, the Ocean Reef tennis program has hosted a myriad of top players in the world such as: Margaret Court (1975), Stan Smith (1987), Arthur Ashe (1988), Gabriella Sabatini (1989), Mary Jo Fernandez (1990), Pam Shriver (1990), Cliff Drysdale (1998), Andy Roddick (1998), Monica Seles (2014) and Mats Wilander (2014).
Jim Morton retired as Director of Tennis in 2022 and now teaches tennis seasonally at the Tennis & Games Center. Bob Ecuyer now leads the real estate firm Swenson & Ecuyer.
Featured Above: Aerial view of the Racquet Club which opened in 1976.