Wimbledon Champ Chuck McKinley

Wimbledon Champ Chuck McKinley

San Antonio - This week will make 50 years since the late Chuck McKinley, a Trinity University tennis legend, captured the Wimbledon men’s singles championship.

On July 5, 1963, McKinley defeated Australian Fred Stolle 9-7, 6-1, 6-4 and hoisted the championship trophy at the All-England Club. On his way to winning “gentlemen’s singles,” McKinley beat such notables as Cliff Drysdale and Arthur Ashe, all without the loss of a set in the “fortnight.” He became the No. 1-ranked player in the world.

All of this occurred while McKinley was a senior at Trinity. And these world-class players were all amateurs.

On the 50th anniversary of McKinley’s triumph in the United Kingdom, members of the Trinity tennis family reminisced about the stocky and powerful McKinley.

Two men who had front row-seats in the tournament were McKinley’s Tiger teammates Al Hill Jr. and Cliff Buchholz.

“We hit two-on-one with him every day of the tournament,” said Hill, a 1967 Trinity graduate. “All Chuck wanted to do was practice hitting, and we ran him from side to side for 30 to 45 minutes. It seemed to work.”

Hill went on to become a businessman, and issued a challenge grant for renovations of the Trinity tennis facilities. The Al Hill Jr. Tennis Stadium (the former Varsity Courts) is named after him. The Butch Newman Tennis Center (the former Delavan Courts) is also part of the grant. Buchholz, a 1965 grad, became a major force in the tennis industry. He was inducted into the 2005 Class of the Trinity University Athletic Hall of Fame.

One person close to McKinley was his younger brother, Bob, who played the pro circuit and was a four-time All-American at Trinity.

“I was 13 years old when Chuck won Wimbledon,” said Bob McKinley. “It was shown on “ABC’s Wide World of Sports” one week after the match. Chuck had an all-around game that highlighted his great athleticism. He kept opponents off balance with a very effective kick serve.”

The younger McKinley went on to say that his brother, who earned a bachelor’s degree in math in 1964, played a major role in his attending Trinity. When Bob McKinley ’72 visited the campus, after being recruited by “the father of Trinity tennis” Clarence Mabry, the decision to become a Tiger was sealed. Bob McKinley went on to coach the Tiger men’s team, with an NCAA singles champion, a doubles championship team, numerous All-Americans, and two finalist teams to his credit. Bob McKinley and Mabry were inducted into the inaugural Trinity Athletic Hall of Fame in 1999. Chuck McKinley, who died of a brain tumor at the age of 45 in 1986, was inducted posthumously and was represented by family members.

Mabry had to get permission for McKinley to compete in the 1963 Wimbledon event. The NCAA Championships were being held at the same time, in Princeton, N.J. Trinity President James Laurie had a grasp of the big picture,” and realized a Wimbledon title would be a boon for the school and tennis program.

One of McKinley’s teammates, Butch Newman (the tennis center is named for him), played in the NCAA Tournament, and advanced to the singles quarterfinals. Newman, a two-time All-American, had finished his sophomore year when McKinley brought home the Wimbledon top prize.

“He put Trinity University on the map of the world,” said Newman of McKinley. “All of a sudden, on the world map, there was a big red dot in San Antonio. He put Trinity tennis at the top of the tennis world.”

Newman, now Trinity’s director of tennis, coached the Tiger men and women to the NCAA Division III National Championships in 2000. He was a Hall of Fame inductee in 2005.

McKinley had success at the 1961 Wimbledon championships, as he advanced to the singles final. Australia’s Rod Laver, the “Rockhampton Rocket,” who quickly turned pro, won the title with a straights-set victory.

The St. Louis native represented his country six times in the Davis Cup, from 1960-1965, including the championship team of 1963.

But McKinley did not just play tournaments around the world. He took care of business with Mabry’s Tiger tennis team. McKinley amassed a 48-2 singles record from 1960-1963, and was 14-5 in doubles with Rod Susman. Interestingly, Susman’s wife, the former Karen Hantze, won the Wimbledon women’s singles crown in 1962. McKinley and Buchholz sported a 10-0 tandem record in 1964.

A Trinity teammate of McKinley’s, Frank Froehling, was also one of the top players in the world. He played on three Davis Cup teams, including the championship squads of 1963 and 1971.

“Chuck was an inspiration,” said Froehling, a 1964 graduate who was inducted into the 2001 Hall of Fame class. “He made everyone around him better. Chuck had an energy that was superior to ours, and showed by example what could be done.”

McKinley elected to not become a tennis pro, and instead had a career as a stockbroker in Dallas.

He was elected to several Halls of Fame. In addition to the Trinity Athletic Hall of Fame, McKinley, was selected for the International Tennis Hall of Fame and Intercollegiate Tennis Hall of Fame.