Take a trip to the Stockdale Country Club and you'll find a man for whom tennis is second nature. Bakersfield's Hank Pfister, a touring tennis pro from 1977-1988, teaching the next generation of tennis players and doing it his own way. "Really old school guy," said one of his student's Palmer Banks.
In a game as much mental as it is physical, Pfister says having mental strength is the key to performing on the game's biggest stages. "You kind of have to have that show off mentality a little bit where you like to get out there and mix it up," he said. "You look forward to trying to beat somebody you shouldn't beat."
Playing in the late 70's and early 80's, Pfister faced a lot of guys he "shouldn't beat." From world number one's Bjorn Borg and Boris Becker to Jimmie Connors and John McEnroe (the four combined to win 32 major titles), he said avoiding intimidation was key. "To walk out on center court at Wimbledon or the French or Australian Open, US Open with 25 thousand people looking at you and not be scared. It takes some courage to do that," he said.
Pfister routinely did just that and in 1983 he ascended to 19th in the world tennis rankings.
At the time, trips around the world were just part of the job so hanging on to the video of his matches or keepsakes from major championships was unheard of. "Luckily my wife put a few of them away. I go find them and think 'Oh that's cool," he said. "Now it seems cool. Then it was just something to wrap my dirty clothes in."
Today, watching the stars play ground stroke after ground stroke makes tennis hard to watch for Pfister. "I get bored...I see all the chances to come in, come forward and take advantage and they don't."
He's been teaching at Stockdale CC, the same facility his dad started in 1972, for the past 25 years and tries to teach the 'serve and volley' technique. Still with the drive to help the next generation. "When you're done reaping the benefits of the game it's time to give a little bit back," he said.
His quest to grow the game comes with improving facilities. In September of this year, Stockdale CC will unveil an all new tennis center.