The South Park (Pittsburgh) Club, still in existence today (the oldest continually USATT affiliated club?), was formed in the 1957-58 season under the leadership of Lillian Guyer. Lillian was a Vice-President of the USTTA and also the Courts, Clubs, and League Chair—in fact, through the years she chaired five different committees and would have liked to have been the USTTA’s paid Executive Secretary or the Editor of the Association’s magazine. So no surprise she hadn’t much time to improve the fortunes of the South Park Club.
Enter optometrist Bill Walk in 1963. He reorganized the South Park Club and became its President for 11 years . After he was about halfway through this Presidency, Bill said, “I heard about this young kid who won a City Parks and Rec Department tournament played outdoors. “ A fellow had come into Bill’s office and given him an eye-opener. “Hey,” he said, “I know who the best ping-pong player in Pittsburgh is: Seemiller.”
“See…who?” said Bill. “You’d better have your eyes checked. He can’t be the best player in Pittsburgh because I am.”
That of course got Bill and Danny together. “I’d heard,” said Bill, “that this Seemiller could block back everything that was hit at him, but that his grip was all wrong. Of course I got him to come to our Club, and darned if it wasn’t true—aside from a little difficulty in returning serve, Danny Seemiller really could play with that odd grip.” And, as Bill and everyone else who played was sooner or later to find out, so could Danny’s brothers.
In the late 1960’s, Bill, along with David Dickson and Mal Anderson, founded the Pennsylvania TTA, and served as its first President. That Association has held a Closed Championship every year since. By 1970, Bill was posing in a Pennsylvania Closed Winners photo with Danny (U.S. Open U-15 runner-up), brother Ricky, the family patriarch Ray Seemiller, the Zatek brothers, Don and Bill (U.S. Open U-15 Doubles winner with Danny), and Joe Pension (a member of the South Park Club who had encouraged Junior play there for years). Of course, in addition to his leadership duties, Bill has long been recognized as a formidable competitor. He’s won 15 PA State Championships in the Over 40, 50, and 60 events.
Bill’s desire to get into umpiring was given added impetus when he chaired matches during the Chinese Team’s historic Tour of the U.S. in 1972. Following that, he umpired both at home, in numerous U.S. Opens and Closeds, and abroad after he became an International Umpire in 1986, and then in 2004 as a select Blue Badge International Umpire. That brought him to various parts of the World—the Olympic Games in Barcelona, the World Team Championships in Germany, and to Japan for one of their prestigious Iinternational Opens.
In the early 1980’s, Bill became Trustee Manager of the USTTA’s Capital Development Fund (CDF) and was happy to announce that “the initial fund drive drew 54 responses resulting in donations of $3,500.” In seeking more donations, Bill reminded everyone that unlike most charities, the CDF will never spend your donations. Instead, they will be invested. The dividends from these investments will be turned over to the USTTA for specific purposes. Any dividends over 10% will be retained and re-invested in the fund. Thus the $7,000 we now have will mean $700 to the USTTA every year forever. Can you imagine what we can do when we get $100,000 in the fund?”
In a Dec., 1983 Spin article, Bill, having been named USTTA Selection Committee Chair, explains the new Team Selection Policy. BIG CHANGE: The Men and Women Singles Championships are no longer decided by single elimination—they’ve been incorporated into the round robin Trials. Finish first in the Trials and you’re the U.S. Champion.
In addition to being a highly qualified Umpire, Bill also became over the years an International Referee, and worked more 5-star USATT events than any other official in our history. Consider: 4 U.S. Opens, 2 U.S. Closeds, 3 U.S. Open Pro Tour events; and an astounding 18 North American Team Championships (in a number of which Bill’s sons, Mike and Dan, enjoyed participating). Sometimes there were minor problems that had to be resolved (“Yes, I know you’ve the same kind of rubber on both sides, I don’t doubt you—but the umpire’s right, the sides have to be different colors”). Occasionally, for whatever reason, an incident during play might threaten to become incendiary and Bill would have to use discretion and quickly bring calm to the court.
Dr. Walk was inducted into our Hall as a Contributor, but looking back at his multi-faceted career and all his years of involvement, you’d sure have to call him an important PLAYER in our Sport.