LC attorney being inducted into La. tennis hall of fame
Last Modified: Monday, March 02, 2015 11:13 AM
Ground is expected to break in the next couple of months on a 10-court tennis facility at the Lake Charles Multi Sports Complex on Power Centre Parkway, off Highway 14.
Through insight and a connection from local attorney Mike McNulty, design help will come from the U.S. Tennis Association (USTA).
McNulty’s mark on tennis started locally and has spread around the world. He drafted the bylaws many years ago for the Lake Area Community Tennis Association. He has served as president of the Louisiana and Southern tennis associations, and is now on the national board of the USTA. McNulty serves on the Constitutional Committee of the International Tennis Federation.
To recognize his decades of service, the Louisiana Tennis Association will induct McNulty into its Hall of Fame. The induction banquet is next month at the New Orleans Lawn Tennis Club.
He plays as often as he can and has a longstanding Wednesday night doubles match at the Lake Charles Racquet Club. The current group includes Eric LeDoux, Rick Proffitt and Richman Reinauer. As a boy, McNulty began on the concrete courts in the St. Mary Parish town of Franklin.
“White concrete with white lines. You could explain all the bad line calls on the fact that you couldn’t see it that well. Chain-link fence was the net,” he said.
He played tennis to be near his father, Mickey McNulty, who served as a judge in Louisiana’s 16th Judicial District Court.
“My best memories playing tennis are playing father-son tennis tournaments,” Mike said. “The best tournament was in Jeanerette,. They had eight courts there, right across from the Jeanerette Sugar Mill. The cane trucks were passing by, there’s all the cinder and smoke, and you can smell all the grinding. And we won the father-son tournament there.
“The trophy for winning the tournament was a 5-pound bag of brown sugar. And I had that bag of brown sugar on my study at my office for I-don’t-know-how-many years, and I don’t know what happened to it. I lost it. It meant so much. People get rid of their trophies – you don’t keep those things. But that, I wish I had.”
Today, McNulty engages in plans for tennis’s present and future: Children 10 and under are learning the game on smaller courts while playing with smaller racquets. Adults may one day play on smaller courts with low-compression balls when they get to retirement age and they move slower.
The USTA encourages leagues for school children: Junior Team Tennis. Intercollegiate tennis may find more television airtime – if it can tailor its team matches into made-for-TV three hours. The USTA is building a roof on its Arthur Ashe Stadium, where the U.S. Open is played in New York.
McNulty has sat in the President’s Box at the U.S. Open. He has cracked jokes there with Alec Baldwin and has dined with Richard Williams, father of Serena and Venus.
Four years ago, McNulty celebrated his 60th birthday with a party at the Lake Charles Racquet Club. As part of his celebration, children ages 10 and younger were invited to a free tennis QuickStart clinic. All participants got free memberships to the USTA.
McNulty, who bought a lifetime USTA membership for his 1-year-old grandson Elliot, is passionate about girls and boys playing tennis.
“Kids’ involvement in sports is declining,” he said. “Tennis is not only a great cardiac sport, it teaches you to compete, it teaches you to think, to be active, to be part of a team. It teaches you fairness, sportsmanship.”
Mickey McNulty volunteered in tennis to the extent that the tennis family of the year award in both Louisiana and in the USTA’s nine-state Southern region is named for the late judge. Mickey approached his son Mike in the mid 1990s about serving on the Louisiana Tennis Association’s board. At the time, Mike was coaching his three sons’ teams and was continuing to build his law practice. He turned his father down initially.
“The last thing I’d ever want to do is tell my father no. My father said, ‘I understand that, Mike. But I promise you this: You will make lifelong friends and you will meet the best people in the world because people who volunteer, who give of their time, are good people.’ So I said OK, I’ll do it.”
Judge Mickey McNulty granted continuances and pushed for settlements when he needed to leave the courthouse to get to tennis tournaments. When he retired from the bench, he and his wife Claire moved to New Orleans and they joined the New Orleans Lawn Tennis Club. Mickey became a member of the Lee Group, named for Dr. Donald Lee, a Tulane philosophy professor who called his friends every morning to see who was playing.
“He would call up every day and say, ‘In or out?’ If you said, ‘In,’ then boom, he’d hang up. That was it. ‘Out,’ boom. Hang up. My mother would pick up the phone: ‘Mickey, in or out?’” Mike has his late father’s photo of the 20 or so men of the Lee Group.
Claire Lagrange McNulty is now in a wheelchair but it won’t be difficult for her to make her son’s induction banquet next month. The assisted living home where she lives is next door to the New Orleans Lawn Tennis Club.