From “Battle of the Sexes” to the 14th Annual Jason Morton USTA Tournament

Bob Hirt

Billie Jean King trounced Bobby Riggs on September 20, 1973, with Jason Morton officiating as Chair Umpire at that world-famous “Liberation Match” (the recent movie of this match was called Battle of the Sexes). This fact may not be well known, but it is well known that his efforts created an outstanding tennis facility and program here in the IronOaks community of Sun Lakes, Arizona.

Mr. Morton was a well-known tennis player who briefly played at a professional level with a reputation firmly established as a top amateur who won over 150 national and international titles around the world.

He moved to Texas in 1946 where he began his long and successful, highly rewarding career in tennis. He became the first professional tennis player in Corpus Christi and then moved on to open the University Club in Houston as the pro there. From there, he started a team at the University of Texas in Tyler, Texas. He served on the Executive Committee of the Texas Tennis Association and as President of the USPTA Texas Division as well. Upon retirement as the Director of Tennis at the IronOaks Community in Sun Lakes in 2003, the State of Texas honored him by inducting him into the Texas Museum and Tennis Hall of Fame.

He joined Mr. Robson when Sun Lakes was in its early stages of development. Mr. Robson, a tennis player himself, listened carefully as Jason insisted that an active adult retirement community of the caliber of the Oakwood and Ironwood complexes needed top-rated superior tennis courts. His view was that such a facility would attract homeowners of USTA competitive caliber as well as social tennis players. He argued successfully, and the court complex containing 10 hard courts (two center courts) and four clay courts that Jason personally designed became a reality.

Honoring his efforts, Heide Gilbert, former IronOaks Director of Tennis, initiated in 2003 the Jason Morton USTA Sanctioned Tournament. The 14th tournament, honoring his memory, will be held this year from March 1 to 4, 2018. This year’s tournament will be directed by Coach Kwong Young ([email protected]) with the expert assistance of John Radcliffe, director of many of the past tournaments. No other sporting event in IronOaks draws as many people from not only the U.S., but from other countries well. You are encouraged to place this event on your calendar as a must, whether a contestant or a spectator. One may access the tournament specifics on the USTA website; enter the tournament number, 750013618.