Les Bairstow’s lifelong passion for tennis and his drive to build the game in the region has been honored by the sport’s governing body in WA.
Mr Bairstow, the Lower Great Southern Tennis Association president, was the sole recipient of the Service to Tennis Award at the Tennis West Awards Gala at Optus Stadium in Perth on Friday.
His push for a regional tennis center in Albany since becoming LGSTA president in 2017 was the key to him receiving the honor.
He said it was an unexpected honor and he did not know who had nominated him.
“The person that needs as much recognition as I do is Jenny Rickerby, she has worked equally as hard as what I have to get this tennis center project under way,” he said.
“Also Jackie Brennan, Vanessa Hillman and Alex Riggall — those four people have been super supportive of the whole project as well as the two clubs who are going to combine to become one club.
“The members and committees of Merrifield Park and Lawley Park have supported this process right from day one — we all know the future is one centralized location.”
Tennis West chief executive Brett Patten said Mr Bairstow had shown “incredible commitment” to the growth of regional tennis for well over a decade.
“Volunteering plays a critical role in sport and tennis is dependent on volunteers to keep our community clubs open and our players playing,” he said.
“Les is a remarkable individual whose unwavering contribution to the sport of tennis saw him recognized with the Service to Tennis Award.
“Les was honored in front of Tennis Australia’s CEO, Craig Tiley, who sent Les a special video message to congratulate him.”
Mr Bairstow said tennis was a family tradition and he had been playing since the age of six.
He said a regional tennis center in Albany would help future-proof the growth of the sport in a growing city.
“I think we’ve got a fair bit of momentum going at the moment,” he said.
“Working with Tennis West and Tennis Australia, they’ve given us a really clear agenda of how they’d like to see tennis developed in the region — part of that is getting stage one of this tennis center up and running.
“Then straight away we’ve got the ability to really crank it up for all our junior players. The future of the whole thing lies with the kids.”
An application for just under $500,000 of State Government funding for the regional tennis center project is going through the assessment process.
If successful, it would pave the way for a six-court center to be built within the eastern precinct of Centennial Park.
“We’ve had a lull in progressing the sport that’s due to the fact the facilities at the two clubs — Merrifield and Lawley — have gradually declined because there has been no money spent on them for eight years based on the promise of a tennis center ,” Mr. Bairstow said.
“Kids have stepped away a bit because we haven’t been able to offer those vibrant facilities, but we’ve noticed a turnaround in the past 12-18 months.
“I think it’s only going to grow further once we have a presence in the middle of the sporting precinct.
“Once that facility is built and is highly visible and open to the public to hire courts it’s going to grow and grow and grow.”
Tenterden Tennis Club’s Sonia Addis was also recognized at the Tennis West Awards Gala event as one of two recipients of the Volunteer Achievement Award.