With just a number and four letters, the license plate on Jerry Groce’s vehicle briefly and aptly describes him: 10S NUT. Because of his lifetime devotion to tennis, Groce, the general manager of th Ashland Tennis Center since 1996, has been elected in to the Kentucky Tennis Hall of Fame.
While an excellent tennis player in his own right, Groce recognizes tha he is going into the state’s tennis hall of fame mostly because of his support of tennis off the court more than because of his playing skills on the court.
In announcing his selection, the press release from the USTA Kentucky office in Louisville lauded Groce for going “above and beyond” to help promote the game through his various roles as a tennis player, USTA Adult League coordinator, tournament director, coach, volunteer, administrator and general manager of the tennis center.
“USTA Kentucky is recognizing Jerry for his long-term service to the organization at the state, local and southern level,” said USTA Kentucky president John Herring. “Jerry is recognized as one of the true authorities of USTA League Tennis throughout the south.”
Groce will be formally inducted into the USTA Kentucky Tennis Hall of Fame on Jan. 25 at the Louisville Country Club.
Dr. Jack Ditty, who nominated Groce, described him as a quiet and unassuming gentleman who earned the Hall of Fame honor for thousands of hours of dedication.
“Tennis has been a lifelong passion for Jerry,” Ditty said. “I met him when I started the Ashland Tennis Patrons. I recruited a group of young people to assist with tournaments in Central Park. He was always quick to volunteer. Even when he was assistant tournament director, he had a lot of responsibility.”
“That’s where I got my love of tournaments,” Groce said. “I used to help him (Ditty) with the Kentucky State Open, setting up the draw and working out the seeding. I loved that aspect. I remember being the youngest person there at the time.”
The Boyd County High School graduate served assistant manager of the tennis center from 1984-89, organizing and overseeing leagues and tournaments for the center.
Groce served as USTA state league coordinator from 1996-2003. Working out of his home, he supervised 11 local league coordinators across the state. The league program grew 35 percent during his tenure, from 3,900 participants to more than 6,000.
As a player, Groce captained a 4.5 level men’s team from the Ashland Tennis Center that won the Southern Section title in Chattanooga in 1997. These days, Groce says he plays as much tennis has his knees will allow.. This year, he’s been a member of six league teams. His Charleston (W.Va.) 4.0 team has won the local level the last five years.
During his time as general manager of the tennis center, Groce has conducted 10 or more tournaments each year for adults and children and also organized several USTA district state championships there. He was tournament director for the $25,000 Our Lady of Bellefonte Hospital women’s event in 2004.
Being selected to the state tennis hall of fame is the latest in a long and impressive list of awards Groce has received over the years.
“My whole adult life has been tennis in some shape or form,” Groce said.
His organization and management skills, his countless hours promoting the game, and most of all, his passion for tennis have earned him a well-deserved place in the USTA Kentucky Hall of Fame. We congratulate him.