Sunday, July 12, 2020

“Little Mo and Big Ben”: Two of San Diego’s Most Beloved Tennis Legends to be Honored

“Little Mo and Big Ben”: Ben Press and Maureen Connolly.  Ben was the head tennis pro at the Hotel del Coronado for 28 years.

SAN DIEGO – Longtime teaching pro Ben “Big Ben” Press and three-time Wimbledon champion Maureen “Little Mo” Connolly, childhood friends who grew up together in North Park, will be honored posthumously by local tennis enthusiasts with a public dedication ceremony at Balboa Park’s Balboa Tennis Club (2221 Morley Field Drive), Sunday, Oct. 20, 1 pm to 3 pm.

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Co-presented by the Greater San Diego City Tennis Council and the Balboa Tennis Club, the event will officially dedicate the newly constructed Press Family Tennis Pavilion, a covered tournament desk area, located adjacent to the tennis complex’s pro shop.

The Press Family Tennis Pavilion has been erected to honor the memory of Pauline and Charles Press who gave their son Ben the gift of tennis. Press family members and long-time friends from the tennis community generously donated funds to help realize Ben’s wish to thank his parents.

Artfully designed on a volunteer basis by Janene Christopher, a San Diego-based architect who also serves as president of the Balboa Tennis Club, the permanent wood-and-metal ornamental shade structure features small circular rays of light shining through the airy outlines of tennis balls.

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In addition, a tribute featuring the Maureen Connolly Brinker Tribute Wall and Walkway, a permanent and spectacular six-foot concrete panel supported within a large wooden structure. This Tribute Wall and Walkway will feature a life-size photograph of “Little Mo” with her career and personal highlights listed to the immediate right of the photo within the panel. This sculpture tribute will be located directly adjacent to the Press Family Tennis Pavilion.

Event MC Logan Jenkins, a nationally ranked tennis player and former Union-Tribune columnist, will introduce life-long friends, family members and acquaintances of both Press and Connolly Brinker through the years. Speakers for the event will include Bill Kellogg, Andee Press-Dawson, Edie Greenberg, Cindy Brinker Simmons, Steve Avoyer, and Geoff Griffin.

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Ben Press

Throughout his playing and teaching career, Ben Press’ name was synonymous with tennis in San Diego County for nearly 75 years. He was widely admired for his many accomplishments as a ranked player, respected coach and esteemed chair umpire. Known fondly as “Big Ben,” the diminutive Press mentored numerous national and regional champions, and championed the game of tennis all his life. He died in 2017 at age 92.

Maureen Connolly

Known as “Little Mo,” Maureen Connolly was born in San Diego and went on to win a total of nine Grand Slam singles titles in the early 1950s, including Wimbledon in 1952, 1953 and 1954. In 1953, at age 18, she became the first woman, and still the only American woman to date, to win all four Grand Slam tournaments during a calendar year. The following year, in July 1954, she seriously injured her right leg in a horseback riding accident that eventually ended her competitive tennis career when she was only 19. She died of cancer in 1969 at age 34.

The “Little Mo and Big Ben” dedication will begin with the presentation of colors by the Navy ROTC Color Guard and the playing of the National Anthem.

For inquiries regarding the event, please contact David Gill, president of the Greater San Diego City Tennis Council at: davidsearsgill@gmail.com or 619-807-9688.

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