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Osborne, Philip W.


Honor Award Induction: 1972

Hall of Fame Induction: 1996

Philip Osborne had been an active player in the New York metropolitan area at Englewood Field Club, NJ, until he was relocated to Pittsburgh, which at the time was a platform tennis desert. He set about changing this and succeeded. Initially he tried to convince clubs to build courts but was turned down. So, he built his own facility, Fox Chapel Racquet Club. That was the start of what has become one of the most active regions for the game in the country. Osborne was also a keen supporter of the aluminum deck that became the standard in the early 1970s. (Fox Chapel Racquet Club).

What started as a love for the game and a corporate relocation developed into a string of facilities and a level of enthusiasm for the sport such that—in one town alone—there was as much play as in any section of Westchester County, Central Fairfield County or suburban New Jersey.

Osborne had lived, played and promoted the game in the metropolitan New York City area but then was relocated to an area some 400 miles away where they’d gotten along just fine without much paddle for most of the years the game had been burgeoning out east. His first thought was to build his own court, but that wasn’t going to result in the enjoyment of more than a few and he knew the game could be as big “out west” as it had been at home. He approached the three clubs in town to promote the game and got three firm rejections. “Golf is our sport and besides, you can play ping pong almost any place, ” was the prevailing attitude.

Undaunted, he got a group of people together who enjoyed playing and took them twenty-three miles west to another suburban town that, short of taking an airplane ride, had the only two courts around. After holding a successful demonstration, he had a group of converts but still no interest on the part of the existing clubs. The only answer was to build a new Club and that’s exactly what they did. They found suitable land in a heavily populated area, raised seed money, and recruited members. They wanted a club built around active participation, so the first consideration was the courts, built by R. J Reilly in 1964. The clubhouse came along seven years later. Club participation also meant working on projects, and this emphasis on participation had a great deal to do with the character of the family- oriented membership and the flavor of the club. Osborne served as the first President of the Fox Chapel Racquet Club, that opened in Fox Chapel, PA. A member of the club said, “I don’t know what we did in the winter before he came.”

Osborne played a key role in the subsequent growth of paddle in the whole area. Clubs which originally turned him down developed paddle complexes as prime facilities and he was involved in the development of almost every one, from helping to pick out feasible sites, conferring on court construction, and advising on companion structures from which to watch or recuperate. While doing all of this he championed the sport by encouraging new players to visit his club to watch and play before their own courts were built, began clinics for beginners, and held strategy sessions for the more advanced players. He did all this just for the love of the game.

Osborne, who worked for Alcoa, was an early proponent of the aluminum deck that had been developed by Dick Reilly in the early 1970s a surface, he said, that would last because it wouldn’t rot, warp, cup, twist or check, and one that could accommodate an automatic ice and snow-melting system.

While not a nationally ranked player, he was a semi- and the quarterfinalist in the National Men’s Seniors, in the latter losing in a three-set match to two pretty fair players, Zan Carver and Dick Hebard. He was also a semi-finalist in the West Pennsylvania Mixed, and Men’s Doubles Champion at his own Club.

Osborne served on the Board of both the the Western Platform Tennis Association and, before relocating to Pittsburgh, had been president of the Englewood, NJ, Field Club for two years, during which time their original paddle complex was moved to a better location and two new courts added.