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Former Real Tennis World Champion James Bostwick Passes Away

Update Jul 15, 2024
Published May 14, 2024

Accomplished athlete and Real Tennis player James F. C. Bostwick died peacefully at home on 29th April. He was 87.

Jimmy Bostwick was one of the greatest amateur athletes of the twentieth century. He first played Real Tennis in Aiken, where he grew up. He took lessons from Pierre Etchebaster when Pierre was down for his annual spring sojourn. In his early twenties, Bostwick started playing tennis regularly at the Racquet & Tennis Club after he joined in 1958.

Less than a year later he won the 1959 Gold Racquets and went five sets against the current world champion Jack Johnson in the U.S. Open. In the spring he knocked off Norty Knox in the finals of the 1959 U.S. Amateur, just weeks after Knox had beaten Johnson in the world championship. He became the youngest amateur champion since Jay Gould a half century earlier. Proving it was no fluke, Bostwick again beat Knox in the 1960 Gold Racquets, 6-4 in the fifth set.

Known as someone who combined the classic floor game of subtlety and finesse with a deep determination, Bostwick was one of the greatest tennis players in U.S. history. He won the U.S. Open singles seven times: in 1960, 1961, 1962, 1967, 1969, 1970 and 1972; he won the U.S. Open doubles in 1968, 1969 and 1970 (with brother Pete Bostwick). He won the U.S. Amateur singles in 1959, 1964, 1970 and 1972; he won the U.S. Amateur doubles in 1969 and 1973 (again with Pete) and then in 1980 with Norty Knox. At Tuxedo Bostwick accumulated seven Gold Racquets titles in all and was the first person to win the Gold Racquets in both racquets and tennis on the same weekend.

Bostwick was world champion from 1972 to 1975, winning the title twice. After losing 7-1 to his brother Pete in the 1970 Challenge, he turned the tables in 1972, beating Pete 7-2. In 1974 he played in one of the most controversial Challenges of all-time, beating Howard Angus 7-5. A year later he retired as world champion. In 1994 Bostwick was inducted in the inaugural class into the International Court Tennis Hall of Fame.

Bostwick excelled in a half dozen other sports. He was an outstanding golfer. In 1964 he captured the French Amateur, winning 8 and 7 in the thirty-six-hole finals. In the same summer he made it to the fifth round of the British Amateur. He won the club championship at Piping Rock in six different decades. In 1968 he qualified for the 1968 U.S. Open at Oak Hill but missed the cut after two rounds. He also loved ice hockey. He was a stalwart on the St. Nicholas club team for a quarter century and scored the winning goal in 1962 when the St. Nicks beat Harvard. He later coached hockey at Green Vale School on Long Island.

*Above by James Zug, continuation courtesy of Haven Pell

Jimmy overcame an alcohol problem in his early life and died having not had a drink in over 50 years. In the second half of his life Jimmy enjoyed coaching kids’ sports and doing volunteer work. He loved coaching ice hockey for Beaver Dam and for the Greenvale School. He was also a volunteer athletics coach at the Glen Cove Boys and Girls Club.

Jimmy had a knack for working with kids especially for helping them develop specific skills in one on one settings. He was loved for his great sense of humour and fun-loving nature with those he coached.

Jimmy was the volunteer caretaker of the Jane B. Francke Bird Sanctuary in Brookville. He enjoyed outdoor work immensely.

His father, GH Bostwick Sr., was a legendary horseman and polo player. His mother, Laura Curtis, was a strong women's golfer and relative of the founders of the Curtis Cup. One of seven siblings, Jimmy was predeceased by GH "Pete" Jr., Laura, and Dolly and is survived by Charlie, Ricky, and Marie (Sissy). He enjoyed time with his family as a husband to Diana for over 60 years and father to Jimmy Jr., Lisa (Susan), and Tommy (Emily) and a grandfather to Daphne, Frazier, Lila, Olivia, Lilly, Stokes, Jack and Davis.

He truly loved the simple things in life: a good cup of coffee, a good delicatessen, a swim in Long Island Sound or in the cold waters of Northeast Harbor, Maine. He could often be found on a rocking porch or driving range telling stories and joking around. He had a devilish grin and a twinkle in his eye; he was beloved by many. He was considered one of the great characters of his generation.

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