Advertisement
Obituaries

Claude I. England, a champion U.S. Professional Tennis Association player and an esteemed coach, dies

Claude I. England was a founder of the Baltimore Tennis Academy.

Claude I. England, a champion U.S. Professional Tennis Association player who was an esteemed teacher and a beloved fixture on the Maryland tennis scene, died Nov. 7 of complications from a stroke at the University of Maryland Medical Center. The longtime Lutherville resident was 67.

“He was for 40 years a fixture on the Baltimore tennis scene and he was an enormously popular coach,” said former Baltimore Sun reporter Eric Siegel, a longtime tennis player. “He was just an incredible person and everyone loved him.”

Advertisement

“Claude was tenacious, competitive, strong and had incredible speed,” said Tony James, a fellow New Zealander, who met Mr. England on the tennis court when they were teenagers and then attended the University of Maryland, College Park with him. "He may have only been 5-foot-2, but could move around the court like a gazelle. That was his strong suit.”

Amy Elias was a friend for 50 years and began watching Mr. England play tennis when she was a teenager.

Advertisement

“In the last five years, we’ve played a lot together,” Ms. Elias said. “He was so smart, so much fun and a gentleman unless he really wanted to win the point. He was a fierce competitor and had a stellar career.”

Claude Ivan England, son of Ivan England, a Texaco Oil Co. executive, and Dawn England, a homemaker, was born in Wellington, New Zealand, and raised nearby in Lower Hutt, New Zealand, where he graduated from high school in 1972.

A natural athlete, he explained in a 1979 Evening Sun interview why he pursued tennis.

“England, who loves the outdoors and hiking, said he chose tennis as a youngster over team sports because it ‘allowed me the freedom to travel and see the world,’” the article said.

In the interview, Mr. England explained that the New Zealand Tennis Association did not assist him much in his rise to success.

‘I always felt that I had the ability at any junior level to make certain teams and nominations,” he said. “But the Federation [NZTA] didn’t think I had progressed enough for my size. I got the shaft a couple of times ... especially when they didn’t nominate me for Junior Wimbledon play when I was 18. That cost me money.”

“I guess I get my height honestly,” he told The Evening Sun. “My mom and dad are both around 5-1. My sister got all the height. She is 5-7. I wasn’t that small in my younger days. I just stopped growing and the other boys passed me up.”

1979 file photo. Claude I. England was a tennis player known for his speed.

Terps coach Doyle Royal, who had never seen him play, brought Mr. England to College Park in 1975 on a tennis and soccer scholarship. In 1977, Mr. England won the prestigious “M” Club John W. Guckeyson Award for excellence in two sports.

Advertisement

Mr. England earned a bachelor’s degree in business with a minor in recreation.

Height issues aside, Mr. England explained in the newspaper interview that “my primary assets on the court are my service return and my ability to move an opponent around to create an opening.”

The newspaper observed, “When the opening develops, England loves to unleash the deadly topspin lob that has sent more than one local player away talking to himself.”

“Claude was a U.S.P.T.A. professional with 35 years of service with a Pro 1 rating and was a former ATP touring professional, achieving a ranking in the top 200,” according to a biographical profile submitted by his family. “He was a 30 time Mid-Atlantic and Maryland State champion, winning the Mid-Atlantic Men’s 40, 45 & 50 Singles Clay Court Championship on 15 different occasions.

“He was a five time National Singles Champion and selected to represent the USA on International Senior Teams. He achieved a number 1 USTA singles ranking for Men’s 40 Singles in 1998. In 2000, he was a member of the victorious Men’s 45 International Dubler Cub team in Paraguay, playing #1 singles.”

Mr. England, who was a founder of the Baltimore Tennis Academy, had been director of tennis at the Chestnut Ridge Country Club in Lutherville from 1984 to 2011, and held a similar position at Woodholme Country Club in Pikesville from 2012 to 2018.

Advertisement

“I just loved being around Claude,” Gailor Large, former captain of the Princeton University tennis team who had been Mr. England’s student for years, wrote in an email. “When I would arrive at Chestnut Ridge, he would be waiting under the canopy of trees, greet me with his great accent, and we’d get to work. He was kind and patient always. He taught me how to move on clay, although no one could move like he could. I will always treasure the time we had.”

The Morning Sun

Daily

Get your morning news in your e-mail inbox. Get all the top news and sports from the baltimoresun.com.

Mr. England also taught in the winter program at Coppermine Racquet and Fitness Club at Bare Hills, and was on the summer teaching staff at the L’Hirondelle Club in Ruxton from 2019 to 2021.

“He had the ability to make everyone feel like they were a superstar,” Ms. Elias said.

“Claude was totally sensitive to people whether they were skilled, accomplished or just beginning,” Mr. Siegel said.

Mr. England was still actively playing tennis and had not retired from teaching at his death.

Advertisement

A celebration-of-life ceremony will be held at 1 p.m. Saturday at the Woodholme Country Club at 300 Woodholme Drive in Pikesville.

Mr. England is survived by his wife of 30 years, the former Norma Raon, a publicist; a sister, Gloria England Nash of Auckland; a nephew, Ross Hay of Auckland; and a niece, Louise Hay Mitchelson, of Auckland.


Advertisement