The United States Tennis Association recently announced that former Minnesota women's athletics director and women's tennis coach Belmar Gunderson of River Falls, Wis., was honored with the 2011 United States Tennis Association's Service Bowl Award. The announcement was made at the USTA Semiannual meeting held on September 5 at the Grand Hyatt in New York City.
The USTA Service Bowl Award annually honors a female player who makes the most notable contribution to the sportsmanship, fellowship, and service of tennis. Since its inception in 1940, award recipients have included Billie Jean King, Chris Evert, Barbara Williams, Pam Shriver and Mary Joe Fernandez. This year celebrates 67 years of recognizing such outstanding women on the national level.
"Belmar's outstanding achievements as an advocate, coach, player and mentor is truly an inspiration," said USTA Chairman of the Board and President Jon Vegosen. "She has left a legacy in tennis, and we proudly honor her lifetime of achievement and dedication to tennis with this award."
Gunderson has dedicated at least 50 years to the game and has left a legacy not just in tennis, but in all women's sports. She has played tennis at the highest level, as well as encouraged and developed new players and leaders in the sport.
She has competed in several grand slam tournaments, including the US Open, Wimbledon, and the French Open, with victories over Wimbledon champions Louise Brough and Maria Bueno. She achieved a No. 11 national ranking in women's singles and No. 2 in doubles. Her titles include the 1961 Indoor Women's Doubles and Mixed Doubles Champion, as well as the Swedish International Champion and Frankfort International Champion in singles and doubles.
In her later years, Gunderson's tennis achievements continued to build. She had the honor to represent the United States on the Kitty Godfree, Althea Gibson and Queens Cup Teams at the ITF World Senior Team Championships. Additionally, she won the USTA National Doubles titles in 55s, 60s, 65s and 70s and has won eight ITF World Doubles Championships.
As a tennis coach, Gunderson captained the Junior Wightman Cup Team in the late 50s and early 60s. When she went back to school as a teacher and coach at the University of Minnesota, she used her competitive spirit to improve women's sports. She was the first official coach of the women's tennis team and oversaw the creation of ten women's varsity sports. Gunderson was a force in creating women's college athletics as we know it today. In 2004, she was inducted into the Intercollegiate Tennis Association Hall of Fame.
Her service to the game is exemplified through her many years of dedication as a volunteer. She served on the USTA Women's Collegiate and Educational Research committees in the 1960s and she was the AAPHERD representative to the USTA Joint Committee on Tennis and she later served as chair of the committee. Since 1990, Gunderson was on the USTA Florida Adult Competitive Committee and organized and captained the Florida Intersectional Teams. She instigated the initiation of the 80s as a new age group in the Intersectional Team Competition and has been actively involved in the National Senior Women's Tennis Association since its inception.