tennis NEWS

Farewell Dougie Sharp, passed away 15th March 2017

Mar 21, 2017
The legend behind bringing corporate sponsorship to Real Tennis

The T&RA is saddened to report that Dougie Sharp died peacefully in his sleep on Wednesday 15th March 2017. He was 92.

Dougie joined Seacourt Tennis Club shortly after its foundation in 1966 and remained an unswerving and generous supporter of the Club for the whole of his long life. It is impossible to précis or underestimate the contribution, enthusiasm and prestige he brought to Seacourt for over 50 years.

When the Club opened its doors in the summer of 1966 there were few Real Tennis players and a ‘blank canvas’ for the future. Dougie embraced the cause, learnt the game with relish, and whole-heartedly supported the early years – encouraging friends to join the Club and became pivotal in establishing the Club we now enjoy.

He became a natural and stylish ambassador for the Club, welcoming visiting players and teams and happily travelling to play elsewhere – his trips to Bordeaux, Paris and Troon became legendary fixtures.

In 1980 Dougie, who had sold his family motor business to Unigate, persuaded the Directors of the food division of that company to become the first corporate sponsors of Real Tennis. Unigate ‘Real Orange Juice’ delivered by the milkman became a reality!

At a stroke he transformed the future of Real Tennis. The introduction of significant funds into the game enabled the Tennis & Rackets Association to provide, for the first time, significant prize money to professional players. This generous sponsorship became a pre-cursor with Wimpey and Rank Xerox to follow. Seacourt became a grateful beneficiary – awarded the first World Tournament in 1980 to coincide with the opening of the Rackets Court, and annual support for the Silver Racquet.

The professional and amateur games, and the Tennis & Rackets Association, owe him a great deal for his foresight.

It was Dougie, with Unigate, who was responsible for assembling 6 Tennis and Racket’s World Champions (Howard Angus, Chris Ronaldson, Geoffrey Atkins, John Prenn, Willie Surtees and Jim Dear) at the official opening of the Rackets Court in 1980. These World Champions were joined by James Hunt (World Motor Racing Champion) and Sir Colin Cowdrey (England Cricket Captain) – such a unique occasion organized by a unique man!

On a local level Dougie remained an active player until the partial loss of sight in one eye and failing knees slowed him down. As a result of his own experience, he was influential in the instigation of protective eyewear for the juniors when playing Real Tennis.

Following John Parker’s death, Dougie diligently took on tending to the tub of flowers (originally donated by John) at the Club’s entrance ensuring it was well stocked with flowers.

Dougie instituted and enjoyed presenting the ‘Dougie Sharp Cup’ donating the handsome trophy to the Club which had originally been presented to Chris Ronaldson as the winner of the World Tournament at Seacourt in 1980.

He rescued the old clock adorning the original Hayling Golf Clubhouse during demolition and, having painstakingly restored it, generously presented it to Seacourt to grace the club's front façade.

For over 50 years Dougie visited the Club frequently, keeping in touch with events and the membership and gently influencing management in pursuit of excellence. He attended and generously supported fund raising dinners, and watched matches. He was indeed a great supporter of the Silver Racquet competition both in spirit and as a sponsor. Despite being wheelchair bound following a severe stroke, he enjoyed visiting Seacourt as often as he could, his last visit being in February to watch the semi-final of the Silver Racquet.

Dougie will be sadly missed.

The funeral for Dougie will take place on Friday, 31st March 2017 at 2 pm at St. Mary’s Church, Church Road, Hayling Island and afterwards at Hayling Golf Club. Family Flowers only. Donations, if desired, to The Stroke Association, c/o Gradys Funeral Parlour.

Share this page:

Share this page:

All News