In the 19th and early 20th centuries in Cobourg tennis was played by the well to do people. The working class had neither the time nor the money to participate. Tennis was played on grass. The dress code was white for men and long dresses for women. One of the first games of tennis actually recorded in Cobourg was in 1879 on Colonel Chambliss’ grass courts located on Green Street. Don Armour and Jack Cruso were the singles players.
Private courts were also located on the ‘Lawn’ at the southwest corner of Queen and Henry St. There were also two on St Peter’s Church property east of the church. In the west end of Cobourg, the Fullerton’s had lighted courts at their Bagot Street residence.
At the beginning of the 20th Century there was a growing demand for public courts. So in 1910 the Town Council committed to putting in two lighted clay courts in Victoria Park. They would be just west of the lawn bowling club and in the vicinity of the cenotaph.
This dramatically increased interest and participation in the game. A tennis club was formed and Cobourg participated in the Lakeshore League with Port Hope, Bowmanville and Peterborough. There were upwards of 50 active and enthusiastic members.
Theses courts remained the center of tennis in Cobourg until the arrival of Hurricane Hazel in 1954 which caused extensive damage to the courts. It was decided the cost of restoring the courts was too prohibitive and the courts ceased to exist and never returned to the park.
Players of note during the latter part of its existence included such notables at Paul Leonard, Del Dillon and Sol Margles. Of particular interest was Jim Burnett who, in one year won the Junior championship and the Senior one as well. Quite a feat!
Tennis went into the doldrums for a period. Players gravitated to the Port Hope Club to play and to the private clubs around the Town. In 1959 Major Ernie Carey and Major Waters had courts put in at the Army Depot on D’Arcy Street. The Depot raised funds to have the courts paved. The first indoor court in Cobourg also on Depot property in 1960 was a converted shipping bay. In 1959 St Michael’s Church constructed two new permanent tennis courts on its asphalt school yard. But they had limited success in keeping tennis alive in the Town.
It was not until the Rotary Club of Cobourg under Ted Prosser proposed to build and pay for three lighted courts at Sinclair Park in 1972 that interest came back. The cost was $30,000. Both the West and East Collegiates put in courts and Jim Burnett put up a trophy for annual competition between the two schools. Of note, the Burnett trophy was won by Peter Cameron for three consecutive years. No other student has ever done this.
The Cobourg Tennis Club had re-formed in 1969. Club teams competed in the Lakeshore League which included five other centers. In 1971 the first Cobourg Tennis Open took place with over 250 participants including the Ontario Men’s Champion.
In 1976 the Rotary Club of Cobourg fundraised another $30,000 to build three more courts in Coverdale Park in Hamilton Township, just east of Cobourg. The President that year was M.A. McLeod and the building was done in conjunction with Wintario Lotteries. The Coverdale Athletic Association was formed to supervise all activities. Membership was 150. The building of all these courts stimulated a golden age for tennis in the Town.
Today tennis continues to prosper at the two parks. New members are always welcome.
As a footnote to the tennis history is the success story of Michelle Tuma. She is a local young lady who graduated from St Mary’s High School. Michelle learned to play tennis in the community and went on to play at Ohio Northern University on a tennis scholarship. While there she held the number one tennis position in both singles and doubles. She is now a pharmacist practicing in the United States.
At the 2019 COSSA regional tennis championships finishing in top 3 were: Girls Singles – Chloe Leguard of CCI; Girls Doubles – Brooke Hoskin/Ashley Landsley of CCI; Boys Singles – Matt Enns of St Mary’s; Boys Doubles – Lewis Odurny/Ethan Fishlock of St Mary’s; Mixed Doubles – Neve Lehtinen/Jamie Slessor of St Mary’s.
Updated August 2020