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Organizing the Net Returns : Annette Buck Manages Chaos as Tennis Tournament Director

<i> Times Staff Writer </i>

Tennis tournament director Annette Buck of Woodland Hills calls it “my worst nightmare.” One thousand entries. A few hundred matches. And rain. Spending the next several hours rearranging the lives of players, parents of players and tournament officials, she makes upward of 200 calls a day and nearly has to have the phone surgically removed from her ear.

It happened last April on the first day of the Southern California Senior Sectional Championships at the Racquet Centre in Studio City. In the year of the drought, nature decided to rain on her tournament.

“Even in Southern California, you have to learn to be prepared for everything,” she says.

But rainouts aside, Buck considers her job a little slice of heaven. “I like running things,” she says. “I’m very organized.”

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Buck is director of adult and senior programs for the Southern California Tennis Assn., the third-largest division of the U. S. Tennis Assn. Her official title is tournament referee--the person who puts tournaments together, decides the draw, schedules matches, runs the show and has more authority than anyone at the event. It’s a job with a lot of busywork--and headaches.

“If there’s an accident on the freeway or a SigAlert, I’ve got to know it,” she says, “so I can hold a match until everyone gets there. Sometimes I even call the Highway Patrol.”

Buck doesn’t do back-yard tournaments for intimate gatherings. She runs 6 of the SCTA’s biggest meets, including the Senior Grand Prix Masters event in San Diego earlier this month. Her smallest is the prequalifier for the Volvo Grand Prix, with a field of 128.

About the only thing the tournament referee doesn’t do is officiate matches. That’s the duty of the chair umpire, who sits above the action at center court. A player can appeal a chair umpire’s decision to the tournament referee, but Buck says, “I’ve never overruled an umpire.”

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Although she has been running tournaments for the SCTA for only 3 years, Buck has been involved in tennis almost all her life. Ranked as a junior, she began organizing events when she married Jim Buck, math teacher and tennis coach at Van Nuys High. For 8 years, starting in the mid-1960s, the Bucks ran the Valley Junior tournament. It was held during Christmas vacation at Valley College, but the tournament died when the school began charging for courts.

“I had the great good fortune to marry a tennis player,” says Annette, who has a college-age son and daughter.

How involved in tennis are the Bucks? They spent their honeymoon chaperoning teen-age boys all over the U. S. for Junior Davis Cup events. “We had a lot of laughs,” she says.

During the summer, the Bucks run a tennis club on Cape Cod. Jim also is captain of the U. S. Italia Cup squad for players 35 and older.

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As one of the area’s leading referees, Annette spends a lot of time conducting seminars on how to run a tournament. “Some of our local events are not run very well,” she says. “Some people don’t even have an idea on how many balls you need or how much time to allot for matches. There’s a ton of things that can go wrong.”

And it can rain.


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