Wells Tennis Club members paid tribute this week to pioneering club member Hazel Willmott who died on 22nd March.
Hazel joined the club in the 1960’s, while she was a Physical Training teacher at the Blue School, and remained a member until ill health forced her to stop when in her 60s. She was not just a member but served many years as Chairman, Ladies’ Captain and Club President and also chaired the North Somerset League. Notably she is one of only two people to be awarded an Honourable Membership in recognition of her remarkable contribution to all aspects of local club tennis.
Brian Smith knew Hazel well through the club and remarked:
“By the 1970’s club membership had dropped to a record low of 20. Alongside a few others, Hazel’s mix of persuasion, coercion and relentless pressure the club gained a new lease of life and participation started to grow. With Peter Bowers she started a junior coaching programme and got funding to replace the shale courts with tarmac. By the time I joined the club in the late 1980s the membership was up to about 50 and two of the courts were lit.
She was a real force and the tennis club would not be in the healthy position it is in today had it not been for the efforts that she put in over many years. Those of us who are old enough to remember her are very grateful for what she did.”
Club chair Dan Cooke added:
“Tributes have been flooding in for those who remember the remarkable turnaround Hazel achieved for our club. I’m told that she always combined playing tennis with a real desire to get people involved. She would always be armed with both a tennis racket and pen and paper to make sure names would be quickly on a list for new tasks to develop and promote tennis in Wells. We certainly wouldn’t have in excess of 200 members today playing regular tennis in Wells without her efforts and determination.”
Another lasting legacy of Hazel’s time at the club was the formation of the annual 100+ tournament where the combined age of each pair had to add up to 100 or more.