If you are a tennis player, and you love the sport and take it seriously, then you definitely wanted to be part of the recent 58th annual Roy Emerson Adoption Guild Tennis Classic.
Roy Emerson is a legend in Newport Beach. He and his wife Joy are both internationally recognized pros in the tennis world and have rallied — pun intended — their support for the Adoption Guild of Southern California and Holy Family Services around this Memorial Day competition for decades.
Two incredible ladies, Chris Garber and Katie Richardson, co-chaired this year’s three-day tournament — which attracted 434 players competing in singles, doubles and mixed doubles matches.
On finals day at Ken Stuart’s Palisades Tennis Club in Newport Beach, the first-class crowd clad in tennis “whites” gathered for a champagne brunch in the “Sponsor Garden” chaired by Adoption Guild patroness Sheila Forsum to applaud tournament winners — including Men’s Open Singles champion Allesandro Ventre and Women’s Open Singles champ Megan McCray.
Also taking a bow were Men’s Open Doubles champs Neel Grover and Dean Jackson and Mixed Open Doubles winners Christian and Kathryn Settles.
The Orange County Breakers underwrote $15,000 in prize money. Even better, significant dollars were raised to support the Adoption Guild, the benefactor of Holy Family Services.
Spotted in the crowd were Sue Podany, Christine Johnson, Dennis Killelea, Jeff Eastman, Michele Swift, Julie Ahlert, Cindi Gore and Mike Stuhley.
An army of valet attendants were stationed along Newport’s exclusive Harbor Island Drive for a reception welcoming a massive family of bulls imported from Italy to a new home, not on the range, but at Newport Harbor.
Julia and George Argyros welcomed an enormous turnout of longtime friends and neighbors to cross over the tiny Harbor Island bridge for a unique Sunday afternoon soiree in their garden. Valet drivers in crisp white uniforms with black bow ties shuttled the crowd to the garden gate in executive-style limousine golf carts.
In an effort four years in the making — and involving the creative talents of some of the most-respected designers, architects, engineers, international shippers, lawyers, politicians and more — Julia and George took a rectangular waterfront lot adjacent to their Venetian-inspired Italian Mediterranean villa and created a classic, formal rose garden complete with perfectly manicured hedges surrounding prize-winning rose bushes carefully selected to represent a range of pastel colors.
In the center of this romantic garden, a “bullish” artistic statement rises out of stone in the form of a landmark fountain.
Old guard Orange County — including the Rev. John Huffman and his wife Ann, Laura and Mike Hayde, Jorge and Lucy Luhan, Jim McAleer, Dick and Donna Pickup, Byron and Shannon Tarnutzer and Don and Dee Dee Sodaro — meandered through the garden before ending up on the harbor-front lawn.
Hors d’oeuvres were passed and cocktails served in frosted glasses as Julia, standing next to George, took a microphone (with which she is a consummate pro) to explain the story and the passion behind the garden.
The centerpiece fountain was created as an homage to a Renaissance-era carved stone fountain in Tuscany depicting massive bulls in a circle formation.
The task of creating it — Julia tried to buy the original but was blocked by historic preservation — shipping it and assembling it was monumental. In her charming and disarming way, Julia made it seem like it was no big deal.
“The original landscape plan called for a tall hedge to give privacy to the garden, but we decided we wanted to have it open and visible to all who happened by to be able to enjoy the beauty of the bulls, the roses and the waterfront setting,” she said.
Quite a setting, indeed.
Jim Doti and his wife Lynne also were in the mix at the Argyros garden party. Several weeks ago, Jim Doti — the president emeritus of Chapman University, whose leadership transformed a small local college into a nationally rated institution — checked himself into the hospital at UC Irvine for surgery to become a living kidney donor.
At age 72, very few people are checking themselves into hospitals to donate organs. Doti decided it was something he felt compelled to do after learning about living organ donation, which has come into the forefront of the news in recent years.
Heidi Miller, a Laguna Beach resident and Orange County social activist, inspired Doti to donate based on her gift of a kidney to me a little more than a year ago.
Doti is among the five or more people that have stepped up because of Miller’s inspiration — living proof of the power of one individual to create impactful change.
“I think donating this kidney to save another person’s life is the most important thing that I have done in my life,” said Doti, whose accomplishments are significant.
B.W. COOK is editor of the Bay Window, the official publication of the Balboa Bay Club in Newport Beach.