Losing Longtime Leaders

This summer has been particularly hard on ASBA. Two of the Association’s leading lights, Bob Caldwell and Peggy Beard, passed on within one week of one another. The Association has had a double loss, but is richer for the presence of these two.

Both were instrumental to the Association, and both were trailblazers in their own way; in fact, both were named Pioneers of Tennis by Tennis Industry Magazine over the years.

Bob Caldwell, who died on July 3 at age 102, was one of ASBA’s founders. He originally moved into acrylic tennis court surfacing, and founded the product that became known as Plexipave – but had no real way to market it.

It was back in the 1950s and the tennis boom had yet to occur. Caldwell realized he had to reach the builders of tennis courts who would ultimately be using the product. In 1965, he worked with a group of others in the industry to found, fund and launch the U.S. Tennis Court & Track Builders Association, which would later become the American Sports Builders Association. And while it served his networking needs, it also improved the industry as a whole.

Talk to anyone who worked at California Products Corp. and you’ll hear a Bob Caldwell story. The common thread: he didn’t suffer fools gladly and he didn’t mince words.

“We had this intercom system,” Art Tucker told Tennis Industry, “and periodically, you’d get called in. He could dress you down pretty well, but you knew it wasn’t personal. Still, I would hear this voice: ‘Tucker! My office! Now!’ Oh, God, my stomach just churns thinking of that.”

Caldwell retired from CalPro at the age of 98 but his presence lingered. In fact, noted Tucker there’s an element of ‘What would Bob Caldwell do?’ that is present in the company today.

Peggy Beard, meanwhile, made her mark on the industry in her own way. As one of the first women to run a court construction business, in an industry that was by her own admission “traditionally associated with men.” Welch Tennis Courts was the brainchild of Peggy Beard, her husband Burnham, and Peggy’s father.

To say Beard was active in tennis was an understatement. She inhabited the sport – as a player, as a builder and as a respected businesswoman. Welch Tennis Courts flourished and Peggy’s involvement in the intricacies of the business, and its ever-expanding industry, grew. As a member, and later chairman, of the USTA’s Technical Committee, she was key to the development of the Facility Assistance Team, which oversees grant funding and technical information assistance to communities who want to improve their facilities. She became the first woman to hold the Certified Tennis Court Builder (CTCB) credential, and later, the first woman to become chairman of the American Sports Builders Association (then the U.S. Tennis Court & Track Builders Association).

She tended to back away from discussions of glass ceiling-breaking, though. “I just look at things as a challenge,” she once told Tennis Industry Magazine. ““I feel like I’m probably more of a facilitator than a chief of anything.”

In 2003, after 30 years in the industry, Burnham and Peggy retired, sold their house and embarked on a four-year sojourn on a trawler they had purchased together. Peggy, still actively serving with the USTA, would make sure they put into port periodically so that she could join conference calls, often wading through water if she had to in order to get to shore and find a pay phone to make her call. She also remained active in the USTA Florida Section and Foundation. Through 2014, she served six years on the International Tennis Federation Technical Commission.

At the time of her death from lung cancer at age 75, Peggy had a world of respect from the industry and a wealth of knowledge about it. She was named ASBA’s Industry Merit Award winner in 2001, honoring lifelong contributions to the industry.

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