Their names may not be instantly recognized by the tennis community today. Faint memories, maybe, to most.
But in ceremonies Thursday evening at the Cottonwood Country Club, Karen Kennington-Jeppson, Jane Stratton, Wayne Pearce and Joseph Cowley, Jr., were inducted into the Utah Tennis Hall of Fame.They are among the very best players Utah has produced over the years. They started as youngsters back when tennis courts were not so plentiful, tennis balls were white and tennis rackets were made of wood.
All four recalled, back in the beginning, being drawn to the courts daily, for hours on end, because of a "love for tennis."
- Karen Kennington-Jeppson . . . One of the top women players ever in Utah. She was ranked No. 1 in the Intermountain Tennis Association in girls' singles in 1972 and 1973, and was ranked in the top three among women players in the ITA in 1974 and 1975.
As one of the country's top 10 junior players, she was named to the U.S. Junior Federation Team, which is now the Junior Davis Cup Team. During this time she was honored center court at Forest Hills during the U.S. Open.
She played her collegiate tennis at BYU where she played No. 1 singles and doubles for four years and was a two-time All-American. While at BYU she won the No. 1 singles and doubles title twice - 1977 and 1978. She also won several Western Regional titles.
She is the mother of five budding young tennis stars.
- Jane Stratton . . . Another of the top women players with Utah roots. She was ranked No. 1 in both singles and doubles by the Utah Tennis Association and the ITA in girls' 12, 14, 16 and 18. In 1971, she was ranked No. 5 in the U.S. in girls' 18 singles and No. 1 in doubles.
She was the first women to receive a scholarship at the University of Utah, where she played for four years. She was WAC singles champ three times.
She won the U.S. Clay Court doubles title in 1973, and that year was ranked No. 3 nationally in doubles.
In the pros, she was a quarterfinalist in both the U.S. Open doubles and Wimbledon doubles.
Currently she is owner of a company called Promotions Sports, which puts on tennis tournaments around the country, including Davis Cup and the Toshiba Tennis Classic, a pro women's event.
- Wayne E. Pearce . . . As a youngster, Pearce was recognized as one of the best players in the country. While in high school he won three consecutive state titles.
In 1952, he was ranked No. 5 nationally in the boys' 18 singles and No. 8 in doubles. During his junior career he was ranked No. 1 in most age divisions for both the UTA and ITA. He won both the National Public Parks Junior singles and National Junior Indoor doubles.
While playing for the U. of U. he won two WAC titles in 1958 and 1960.
He went on to coach at BYU where he won eight WAC titles and was named Coach of the Year three times.
He has been a teacher at BYU for 30 years and is currently teaching investment and corporate finance in the business school.
- Joseph F. Cowley, Jr. . . . He is another of Utah's top players recognized nationally as a junior. Looking back, he says he got his first start in the Deseret News Tennis Tournament back in 1947.
In 1953, he was ranked No. 2 nationally in boys' 15 and under doubles. In 1954, he was ranked No. 1 nationally in the boys' 15 and under singles. He won the U.S. Hardcourt Junior Championships in 1957. Between age classes 10 to 35, Cowley was constantly ranked No. 1.
He played for the U. of U. where he won two conference titles in 1959 and 1962. In 1963, he was given the "James E. Moss Award," which recognizes the outstanding senior athletes in the U.S.
In 1994 and 1995, he won the 50 doubles titles in the World Senior Games, in 1994 the 50 singles and in 1995 the 55 doubles.
He is currently a self-employed certified public accountant.
The Utah Hall of Fame was introduced in 1994. Plaques recognizing the four tennis greats will be placed on display at the Sports Mall and the Snowbird Canyon Racquet Club.
About 120 people attended the banquet Thursday.