Hall of Fame Induction: 1998
Jack Watson was one the major forces behind the explosive growth of the game in Chicago. At the time of his induction, around 850 men and 750 women were participating in Chicago area leagues he helped to organize and run for more than two decades, He also established a women's charity tournament in his wife's name, and chaired or co-chaired numerous regional and national championships, including the 1990 Nationals. Jack was an accomplished player and won the Men's 50+ and 55+. (Exmore Country Club)
An athlete who excelled in several sports, Watson played basketball, baseball, and football at Lake Forest Academy, in Lake Forest, IL. He was also president of his graduating class and of the student council at the Academy. The first indication that he would excel in racquet sports came at the University of Michigan when he played on the table tennis team that won a Big-Ten championship.
When the first platform tennis court was built at Exmore Country Club in Highland Park, IL, Watson participated in the introductory exhibition, and then continued to give clinics and promote the game. His biggest contribution to the sport was his work in organizing league play in Chicago and serving as chair or co-chair of both regional and national championships for more than 20 years. Jack was one of those few people who would always step up to further the development of the games.
But, these commitments to the administrative side of the sport did not prevent him from becoming an accomplished player. Neither did starting the sport at a relatively late age. There are not many who have logged more miles as a senior player than Watson. He competed in many regional and national tournaments all over the country and was a winner of a number of regional tournaments, including a 13-year run as the Illinois State 45′s Champion. Nationally, he won the National Senior Men’s 50+ in 1985, and was a finalist in 1986 and 1987. He won the 55+ in 1989 and was a finalist in 1991. In the 60+, he was a finalist in both 1993 and 1994.
Watson had a well-established reputation for good sportsmanship, integrity, and consideration for others. He was a true gentleman both on and off the court. He was modest, and fun to be with, on either side of the net, and his friendliness and encouragement attracted many new players to the game.
At the same time, Jack’s keen competitiveness was legendary. A long-time partner recalls that, “we were in an important tournament match, and I was not serving well, having faulted several times. At a key stage of the match, I served two more faults in a row, and my partner raised his hand, called time out, walked back from the net to the baseline, and said to me (loudly), ‘if you fault one more time, you’ll finish playing this match by yourself!’ I didn’t fault again.”
In recognition of Jack’s contribution to the game at Exmore Country Club, the warming “hut“ is named the “‘Watson House.”