AILTC to host 3rd-annual Alex J. Kuhn Memorial Tennis Invitational on Saturday
By John Burbridge
CHARLES CITY — It wasn’t the first time Mark Kuhn attended the Wimbledon Tennis Championships, but he later thought it was going to be his last.
Kuhn was bestowed the distinction of being the first American to serve as an honorary attendant at Wimbledon’s Center Court for the 2016 championships.
The honor came in part because of Kuhn’s love for the sport which culminated in the construction of the All Iowa Lawn Tennis Club on his homestead north of Charles City.
The AILTC’s grass court has become renowned — even across the pond — as being one of the finest in the world.
“I had a great time,” Kuhn said of experience, “but while I was having a good time over there, Alex was struggling back here.”
Shortly after returning from Wimbledon, Kuhn’s son, Alex Kuhn, committed suicide. The Mason City councilman was 34 years old.
“It may have been the guilt … the grief, but after what happened the last time I was there, I didn’t see myself going back there anytime soon,” Kuhn said.
But recently Wimbledon made a plea to beckon him back.
The tournament produces short documentaries to feature on its website. One in the making is about Kuhn’s AILTC and his realized dream of working at Center Court.
“They were willing to fly me out there for free so they could recreate some of the things I did for shots for their documentary,” said Kuhn, who was also granted free admission to the first week of matches at the most recent Championships.
Now, Wimbledon is coming to the AILTC to shoot additional footage of the upcoming Alex J. Kuhn Memorial Tennis Invitational.
The third-annual invite — played on the court christened “Alex J. Kuhn Court of Dreams — will take place at the AILTC, located at 2667 240th St. starting at 10 a.m. Saturday and running all day. It will consist of some of the top 12-under players from Iowa and Minnesota.
“The public is welcome and invited … it is free to attend,” Kuhn said, “and, yes, we will be serving complimentary strawberries and cream.”
Due to his volunteer work with youth as a coach and instructor, as well as his passion for tennis that matched that of his father — Alex and Mark traveled to Wimbledon together in 2015 and filed correspondent stories for a local newspaper — the invite was named after him during its inception in 2017.
In addition to the wooden posts and ryegrass to emulate the Wimbledon experience, the AILTC also has a Wimbledon-styled umpire chair. For this tournament, a tennis official from Utah is scheduled to occupy it while calling the matches — in past AJK tournaments, players made their own calls.
The tournament’s director is Charles City High School tennis coach Brian Parrott. During the inaugural AJK Invite, Parrott’s son, Travis Parrott, a professional player who played at Wimbledon and is a U.S. Open mixed doubles champion, played in an exhibition “celebrity” match.