By Catarah Coleman
It’s not often that we learn about the lives of our co-workers before they embarked on their careers with the Department of Parks and Recreation. Many initiated their professional start in recreation, but some started on a totally distinctive and unique path. Take the case of Maurice Hunter, a Recreation Supervisor at Mary M. Bethune Park in South Los Angeles. He has an immense love for the game of tennis, and has a story to tell!
Hunter was introduced to tennis in 1968 at age 11 in Detroit, when he was challenged to a game by a schoolmate who dared him to play. This friendly competition was all Hunter needed to fall in love with his newfound sport. “Tennis was a different sport than I was accustomed to playing,” said Hunter. “I grew up playing baseball, basketball and football. Unlike those games, in tennis, you only have yourself to depend on to be successful.”
Since picking up a racquet, Hunter has played in many tennis competitions, and has competed all over the world. He’s played in amateur, collegiate and world-class competitions, including as a touring tennis professional. Hunter was a National Junior Champion, was ranked as the United States Tennis Association’s (USTA) Number 1 Midwest Men’s Singles player, NCAA Division 1 Collegiate player at tennis powerhouse Pepperdine University (on full tennis scholarship), and was a USTA/ATP World-Class Professional Tennis Tournament Champion. He also played professionally for 10 years, competing on the major International Pro Circuit.
Hunter has won many tennis matches including several World Class Pro Tennis Championships in singles and doubles. These include: USTA Pilot Pen Tennis Championships (held at Yale University, 1984); Michigan Professional Open (twice), Michelob West Coast Pro Tennis Championships (twice), Buddy's Pizza Men's Professional Championship, Silver's Men's Professional Tennis Championships, USTA Midtown Men’s Pro Tennis Open, Sullair Men’s Pro Tennis Championships and Westowne Pro Tennis Open Championships.
Hunter was forced to retire from playing professionally after breaking a bone during a pro tennis match in Hawaii. But, that didn’t lessen his love for the game! Before joining the Department of Parks and Recreation, Hunter worked as a tennis coach at Los Angeles City College for three years, where he was the first coach to be named Coach of the Year. There, as coach, he helped the tennis team win the first men’s and women’s division championships ever in the history of that college.
In 2004, Hunter Introduced and coordinated a weekly recreational tennis program (MoHunFun Tennis Program) for children in the Los Angeles County Second Supervisorial District through former Supervisor Yvonne B. Burke. The program was a huge success, with the season finale held at the Home Depot Center.
He also helped organize a free tennis clinic featuring more than 100 volunteer tennis instructors supporting the event, and assisted more than 1,000 children to further cultivate their interest in the lifelong sport of tennis.
Today, Hunter continues to encourage young tennis players to play hard, earn a college scholarship for a good education, and to be the best they can be.
As for himself, Hunter recently started playing in tennis tournaments again after 30 years of putting his racquet on the shelf. He’s currently ranked fifth nationally in the U.S. seniors’ rankings after playing two tournaments this year.