Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Tennis at Camp David

President Ford and daughter Susan playing on the clay courts at Camp David  in September 1974. 

In the early 1970s, two regulation-size green clay tennis courts were built using funds donated by Donald Kendall, who was Chairman of Pepsi-Cola and a supporter of Richard Nixon.

Green clay (also known as Har-Tru) provides a softer and slower playing surface than a hard court.  Green clay courts are built using a four inch base of compacted crushed stone topped off with a one inch layer of Har-Tru surfacing.  Prior to each use, the courts have to be brushed using a drag-broom and the lines swept using a line-broom.  The courts need to be periodically watered and rolled.  The top Har-Tru layer must be reapplied annually.

Later photos of the tennis courts (see the 1990 Bush/Evert photo and the Google satellite map below) appear to show a hard court surface, rather than green clay.  The only reference I found concerning subsequent renovations was on the Di Geronimo Associates, Ltd website which lists on the About Us  page:  "1989-1990  Consultant for Special Programs for Tennis Court Construction at Camp David".   It is possible that the green clay court was replaced with a hard court surface during that time frame, however I have not been able to find anything on the internet that confirms it.


President Bush plays doubles tennis with Chris Evert at Camp David in August 1990

President George H.W. Bush enjoyed playing tennis at Camp David.  Some of his guests included tennis pros Chris Evert, Pam Shriver, and Gigi Fernandez.  At her 1995 Tennis Hall of Fame induction ceremony, Chris Evert spoke about playing tennis with President Bush in August 1990: 
"We were at Camp David when the Gulf War broke out.  He was working hard on the phone but he came out and said: 'I need a break. Let's play a set.' We started playing but every 10 minutes, he got a call from some president or prime minister. He'd stop and talk and then get back and ask me, 'What was the score?' "
President Bush's recollection of tennis with Chris Evert:
" 'Bend your knees, cover behind me, get up to the net,' " he mimicked her orders. "As President, people would give me long putts, or if I put up a lousy lob, people would give me a kinder, gentler return. Chris Evert never understood that."

The 2005 book From Mount Vernon to Crawford states that President George W. Bush had various new equipment installed at Camp David "without telling the news media"  including new indoor tennis courts.  That was the only reference I could find about indoor tennis courts at Camp David.

Many Presidents and their guests have enjoyed playing tennis at Camp David. Here are two more clay court photos from the Ford era and one of President Carter taken during the Camp David Summit.

President Ford and daughter Susan - September 1974



President Ford's daughter-in-law Gayle playing tennis at Camp David in June 1975

Menachem Begin meets with Jimmy Carter, Zbigniew Brzezinski, and Cyrus Vance after a tennis match in Sept 1978 




President Obama hosted cabinet members and their families for a Sunday gathering at Camp David in October 2010.  Below is a photo of President Obama, Vice President Biden and Claire Duncan, daughter of Education Secretary Arne Duncan, watching a tennis match at Camp David.

President Obama and Vice President Biden watch a tennis match at Camp David in October 2010 



Google Maps view of the tennis courts at Camp David


Sources:  George Bush Presidential Library; The President is at Camp David; The New York Times; The Daytona Beach News-Journal; From Mount Vernon to Crawford; Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library; National Archives; The White House; Google Maps

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