Betty McNeil wins US Tennis Association honorThe compliments about Betty McNeil ring loudly from Chad Larson. “She’s a talented tennis player, a class act, a role model, an educator, a friend to many, the face of Mitchell and South Dakota tennis, and most importantly, a good sport,” Larson, a Mitchell Tennis Association board member, wrote in a recommendation letter for a prestigious a United States Tennis Association award.
By: Brooke Cersosimo, The Daily Republic
The compliments about Betty McNeil ring loudly from Chad Larson.
“She’s a talented tennis player, a class act, a role model, an educator, a friend to many, the face of Mitchell and South Dakota tennis, and most importantly, a good sport,” Larson, a Mitchell Tennis Association board member, wrote in a recommendation letter for a prestigious a United States Tennis Association award.
McNeil, a Mitchell resident, was recently honored with the USTA Northern Section’s 2012 Albert Teeter Adult Sportsmanship Award. The award began in 1963 and is given to a USTA member annually. It is presented to an adult player within the northern section, which includes Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota, who displays fairness and is a model of good sportsmanship while playing tennis.
She received the news Monday and said she couldn’t believe her eyes when she read the email.
“I was in total and absolute shock,” said McNeil, a teacher at John Paul II and MTA board member. “It’s very humbling that I received this award out of all the people out there.”
McNeil was nominated by Chris Dummermuth, the USTA’s Tennis Service Representative for the northern section. McNeil was selected by a USTA committee from a slate of nominees.
Dummermuth and McNeil are tennis acquaintances and believes McNeil was the right person for the award.
“She epitomizes what a good sport is in life,” Dummermuth said. “She’s just a great testament that tennis is a lifetime sport. She plays for the right reason and that shows when she’s out on the court.”
Dummermuth, who won the award in 2001, contacted Larson and asked him to add to her nomination for McNeil. He accepted, of course.
“People know Betty because of her character and personality on and off the court,” Larson said.
“Having her win an award like this represents what we try to do here in Mitchell. We try to instill that in the younger players and teach them to play the right way. I think Betty is one of many that does that around here, and I think that award went to one of the best.”
Melanie Mullenmeister, president of the MTA, has played with McNeil since her youth.
“She was patient enough to start playing with me when I was 10 and has played a huge part in developing my love for the game,” Mullenmeister said. “She’s always had a positive attitude and shows a sincere love for the game, and you can see that when you’re lucky enough to play with her.”
McNeil plays three to four times a week during the summer season and has played in USTA tournaments as a part of a senior league team out of Rapid City for the past two years. She also plays doubles with Larson when she gets the chance.
“It’s really easy to play with her because she’ll always play with the respect of the game and her opponents,” said Larson, who is also the Mitchell High School assistant boys’ tennis coach. “It’s really much more than winning or losing. It’s about the camaraderie and friendships you make along the way.
“She is out at the tennis courts a lot and she always wants to play and will play with anybody no matter the level.”
McNeil began playing tennis when she was 35 years old and has continued to play for the last 32 years.
“I’ve met so many people throughout the state and nation through tennis,” McNeil said. “It’s unbelievable the connections you make when you have something in common like that. I would have never made those friends if it wasn’t for tennis.”