September - October 2002
Vol. 13, No. 5 | Contents

RB: People

Willie Davenport, 1943-2002
Mr. Racquetball in Paradise
More Air Time for Royster
Neurofibromatosis Foundation Benefit
Dallas Open
Aloha Open [link may de-activate/change over time]
Willie Davenport 1943-2002
The racquetball world lost a friend June 17 when Willie Davenport, a five-time Olympian and avid racquetball player died of a massive heart attack while changing planes at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport. He had no known health problems and the news came as a shock to family and friends.

Davenport made his name as a high hurdler for the U.S. Olympic team. He competed in the 1964, ’68, ’72, and ’76 summer games winning gold in the high hurdles in 1968 and bronze in 1976 at the age of 33. In 1979 Davenport decided to try out for the U.S. bobsled team. In 1980 he was a member of the winter Olympic team that competed in Lake Placid making him one of the first black men to compete for the U.S. in the winter Olympics.

A colonel in the National Guard, Davenport was on his way back to his office in Virginia when he died. The 59-year-old had already put in for retirement and had only 90 days left. He planned to move to Indianapolis after retirement and spend his time traveling around the country.

Davenport first picked up racquetball in 1990 while posted to the National Guard Bureau in Falls Church, Virginia. Far from home and his wife, he began hitting the ball on his own to occupy his free time. Eventually his competitive nature took over and he began to play against other people. Since then he has played in numerous tournaments including the most recent U.S. National Singles, in which he made it to the quarterfinals of the men’s 55+ A/B. He was featured in the March/April 1993 issue of RACQUETBALL .

Mr. Racquetball in Paradise

Samuel Kamuela Koanui was featured in an article titled “Mr. Racquetball in Paradise” in the April 1984 edition of National Racquetball. In 1975, he took first place in the Master’s Division at the National Racquetball Championship in Las Vegas, and was well known as an instructor on the Hawaiian islands during the mid-80s. He passed away, at 73, in Honolulu on June 27, 2002.

Born in Honolulu, Koanui was a retired city refuge division truck driver. Survived by wife, Florence “Iwalani”; son, Guy “Tiga”; daughters, Denise Hanson, Raylene Puahi and Troy “Sweetie” Camacho; eight grandchildren; 10 great-grandchildren; sisters, Violet Alfapada, Marvis Kanahele and Blossom Choy.

Tanya Iwalani Jose submitted the news and recalled her grandfather, “He will truly be missed by his family, friends and all of those whose lives he has truly touched. We love you and miss you.”

Photos, top: From the April 1984 issue of National Racquetball, Koanui is flanked by students Huanani Manginsay and Sharon Loo. Bottom: Later, pictured with his wife, Florence.

More Air Time for Royster
Late-night game-show regular Shawn Royster has been named the official emcee of the IRT tour by commissioner Dave Negrete. For several years, Royster has entertained U.S. OPEN crowds between games and matches, even donning costumes to enhance his acts. For the IRT, his duties will be much the same as they are in Memphis.

Royster wants to use the IRT gig to help further his acting career. He has been on just about every late night dating show starting with Change of Heart in 1999. He then went on MTV’s The Blame Game, USA Network’s Lover or Loser, Blind Date, and, just last year, the WB’s Elimidate. Royster usually did well on the shows except for Blind Date.

“That was my notorious “worst date” ever. I got ruined by these little “thinking bubbles” that they put above your head and then not to mention this girl wouldn’t say anything the entire date and then when she was asked about how she liked me she just said “Dork, Dork, Dork.” So I came home after the show aired and had 50 messages on my machine saying “Dork, Dork, Dork.” Including from people like Sudsy, John and my other racquetball buddies. Real good friends.”

“I knew it happened (during the show) so it was no big deal,” he said later via a telephone interview. “They took out all the funny stuff I said and made me look like an ass.”

Royster is done with the sappy late night dating shows for now and is looking to break into some legitimate acting. “I met a guy named Craig Sheffer (star of the movie ‘The Program’) in Jamaica,” Royster said. “He got me into Howard Fine’s acting class.” Fine is known as one of the best, if not the best, acting coaches in L.A. It must be working because Royster signed with an agent six months ago and is scheduled to start shooting for Fear Factor in October.

“Each one of the shows have titled me as a professional racquetball player, and two of them have actually shown me on the court. They all have been broadcast nationally or worldwide, premiered at prime time, and then been re-run many times over on late night TV. Pretty decent exposure for our sport, I think.”

And his day job? “I give lessons at the Sports Club/LA in Beverly Hills and my clients range from Oscar winners to billionaires who have me teach them on their own court at their estates. It’s pretty amazing.”

Neurofibromatosis Foundation Wins
by David Stob
First Racquets for NF Research Benefit Tournament
In May, the PRO Sports Club of Bellevue, Washington hosted the first Racquets for NF Research 30+ Benefit, where generous contributions from WRA members and a broad range of sponsors helped raise over $3,200 for neurofibromatosis. NF is a neurological genetic disorder that can cause tumors to form on nerves anywhere in the body at any time. While not as widely known as other similar disorders, NF is a progressively complex disorder that: 1) occurs in 1 out of 3,000 births; 2) affects all races and both sexes equally; 3) may be linked to learning disabilities, epilepsy and cancer. No cure or effective treatments (other than surgeries on the tumors) have been identified to this point.

A total of 67 players participated in the three-day event, where volunteers from Children’s Hospital of Seattle and the Washington NF Chapter were on hand to explain the disorder to spectators and participants throughout the weekend. Many thanks go out to the local businesses, philanthropic players and Wilson Racquetball for generous contributions of silent auction items, discounted goods and services as well as direct gifts to the NF research efforts. Likewise, thanks to all the volunteers who gave of their time the entire weekend, including many who then boarded planes early the next week to play in The Finals in Houston. Their contributions of time enabled NF volunteers and me (father of Renae Stob, an NF patient) to share information about the disorder with many interested individuals and corporate representatives.

The tournament featured great competition in 14 divisions of age and age/skill play, including a touch-and-go Men’s 55+. Tournament director Charlie Hamon of Poulsbo, 65, took first place as a warm-up to his trip to Houston with a victory over perennial 55+ champion, Joe Bard. But the conclusion of the match triggered a wave of concern as Bard collapsed and was rushed to Overlake Hospital for emergency cardiac surgery. At the time of this writing, Bard was expected to make a full recovery. Thanks to the efforts of Hamon (a retired physician), Richard Railsback (a fireman and tournament competitor), the PRO Sports Club staff, plus the local fire department, Bard expects to return to competition in due time.

Dinosaur Doubles found the father/son team of Hamon/Hamon victorious over Chun and Lan Huynh. The team of Joe Bard and Greg Sakgen had been poised to give the Hamon’s a real battle in this division, but were forced to withdraw due to Joe’s medical event. In one of the most gracious post-tournament acts I have ever witnessed, Lan and Chun later visited the hospital to present their second place trophies to Joe and Greg. It was the truly compassionate and selfless nature of this act that sticks in my mind as one of the defining moments of this event … in which true greatness of human spirit prevailed over temporal clutching to tournament hardware.

Immediately after the event, plans began for next year’s tournament, which will be bigger and hopefully even better for all involved. Keep your calendars open for the early May 2003 sequel. If you are interested in learning more about NF, check out the following website, or email to, or call (425) 672-9610. If you would like to become involved as a sponsor, please contact Dave Stob at (206) 361-8853.

Dallas Open
by Christy Cramer and Ben Brewster
The first Dallas Open was held at the Landmark Fitness Factory on May 17, 18 & 19. Avid local player Virgie Brooks, owner of Financial Services Specialists, came up with the idea and presented it to her local pro, Martin McDermott. Virgie offered to help sponsor the tournament and Martin McDermott became the tournament director. Organizers had three goals for the tournament; help grow the sport, involve local resources in helping to build an on-going annual major event and, attract professionals to the Dallas/Fort Worth area. 
[Pictured L-R: Martin McDermott, Paul Lowe and Virgie Brooks.]

Local Dallas businessman Paul Lowe helped pull sponsorship together and noted his belief that “the interest and assets exist in the Dallas/Fort Worth area to make this one of the top tournaments of the year and that the total prize money can be raised significantly next year.” This year’s purse was $3,000. Mike Guidry won the Men’s Open and $1,000 by defeating Brian Fredenberg and Phyllis Morris won the Women’s Open and $500 by defeating Denise Mock in a narrow 11-10 tiebreaker.

Other results: Women’s Elite: Keely Franks, Women’s B/C: Camilla Norder, Women’s 30+: Phyllis Morris, Men’s Elite: Arturo Burrell, Men’s A: Fabian Mendieta, Men’s B: Don Romero, Men’s C: Mark Chase, Men’s D: Dennis Kniery, Men’s 30+: Hal Perry, Men’s 40+: Martin McDermott, Men’s 50+: Mike Franks, Men’s 60+: Jerry Baber.

Tournament organizers believe that the prize total can be raised to $10,000 next year and they plan to do some early promotion so that amateurs and pros alike can put the 2003 Dallas Open on their calendars.

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