Thanks for the tip, Bette.
It’s not often that the Palos community and Regional Publishing can brag about being way ahead of the curve in the world of professional tennis, but it’s time to stretch out our long arms and give ourselves, as Orland Park Mayor Dan McLaughlin would say, a “public pat on the back.’’
Last week, 18-year-old Chicago native Taylor Townsend rocked the tennis world when she became the youngest player to reach the third round of the French Open since 2003.
Earlier this week, Sports Illustrated profiled her on its website and quoted male tennis star Andy Murray as saying “I love the way she plays. This is a player who has a lot of talent. A talent rarely seen, either in men or in women.’’
The world has discovered Taylor Townsend, who now hails from Atlanta.
But a couple of Decembers ago, Regional readers discovered her courtesy of Palos Heights’ Bette Sacks.
We were doing a profile on Sacks who, at the time, was 72 and still competing in the sport. Sacks touched on a variety of topics including breaking some African-American and gender barriers in the sport back in the day, dining with Richard Williams, the father of Venus and Serena Williams and working at Lake Katherine.
Sacks also talked about being friends with Townsend and coached her a little a few years ago.
“Years later, she is one of the best players in the world,” Sacks said. “It’s amazing.’’
Sacks was gracious enough to send us a photo of Townsend’s mother, Sheila, taking a photo of Taylor and Sacks. Regional editor Jack Murray loved the photo and ran it on Page 1 of the Dec. 6, 2012 edition of the paper. I loved the photo because if Sacks was right and this girl was the real deal, it would be cool to say we had a picture of the phenom way back when.
Sacks was right.
And it’s cool to say we had a picture of the phenom way back when.
I can’t say for a fact that we were the first Chicago area newspaper to put Taylor Townsend on the front page. But I remember researching Townsend back then and there was scant information about her on the local level.
Wimbledon is just around the corner, so it’s going to be a lot of fun seeing if Townsend-mania around the world will continue.
I’m not sure if we will ever have another next-great-player on the front page of one of our papers, but you can bet that if Bette tells us about someone, we will listen.
Keeping these ‘harty’ boys on the go, go, go
There are a couple of new names popping up you may or may not have noticed here at Regional Publishing.
Frank Gogola and Declan Harty join the veteran Tony Pinto as interns on our roster of superstars. Like Pinto, both grew up in the area and attended Stagg High School.
Gogola hails from Palos Hills and we’ve had him off and running with sports features on Mt. Assisi’s final sporting event and a look at four coaches who are hanging up their whistles who have had magnificent careers.
He’s done work for school newspapers at Moraine Valley and Northern Illinois University as well as spending a summer with an online site called RantSports.com.
Oh, and he has some coaching chops as well as he was a head soccer and assistant hoops coach at St. Patricia School.
Harty is from Palos Park and attends the University of Illinois. His specialty is features and has turned in some terrific work at the Champaign school’s newspaper, including a day in the life of Urbana firemen.
We threw him into the fire right away with pieces on the closing of St. Bernedette and Mt. Assisi and he stopped by Saturday in Oak Lawn to listen to gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner insult current governor Pat Quinn at the opening of Rauner’s new headquarters.
Harty played a year of football at Illinois Wesleyan University, so he knows his way around sports as well.
His work will appear in both the Reporter and Regional.
I’m looking forward to seeing these guys progress as the summer gets hotter.