Tennis Tournament History: Waialae Iki 5 — Home of the USTA Women’s Circuit of Hawaii
The Gentry Companies, residential and commercial developers, sponsored the first official USTA Women’s Circuit of Hawaii tournament held September 30th to October 6th, 1985, at one of its newest developments, Waialae Iki 5.
32 women competed for a total of $10,000 in prize money. But Hawaii players benefited right at the outset, prize money or not. How? This historic, first-ever USTA Women’s Circuit tournament afforded local women the chance to compete against world-class national and international players.[i]
Touring pros also profited. The Hawaii tournament provided an opportunity to rack up WTA points. These points factored into their world tennis ranking and facilitated entry into larger professional tournaments.
USTA Women’s Circuit of Hawaii — 1985 Tournament Local Hawaii Players
- Betsy Somerville
- Rosie Bareis
- Jennifer Choi
- Michele Myers
- Robyn Fujioka
- Kim Uyema
- Rene Koahou
- Camille Bann
USTA Women’s Circuit of Hawaii — 1985 Tournament Highest-Ranked & Seeded Players
- Ranked #247: Lisa O’Neill
- #1 Lisa O’Neill
- #2 Karen Smith
- #3 Stephanie Faulkner
- #4 Susan Jerrell
USTA Women’s Circuit of Hawaii — 1985 Tournament Tennis Facilities/Spectator Seating
The USTA Women’s Circuit tournament organizers converted Court #1 into a cozy stadium court, setting up bleachers along one sideline and behind the baseline in an empty lot overlooking the court. These bleachers provided a view of the tennis court that rivaled the lower-section seating at Indian Wells or the US Open. But the Waialae Iki 5 vista topped Indian Wells in one area—the magnificent view of Diamond Head in the background!
USTA Women’s Circuit of Hawaii — Competition Leading up to the Finals
5th seeded Kate Latham of Mountain View, California, was the oldest player in the tournament at age 32. At her peak, in 1979, she ranked 21st in the world and claimed victories over Billie Jean King, Bettina Bunge, and Steffi Graf (age 16 at the time). Latham defeated Karen Smith in the semifinals – 6-1, 6-2.
16-year-old Stephanie Faulkner of Australia, a natural athlete, could heave the javelin, throw the shot, and toss the discus. She could also run 800 meters faster than any of her high school peers.[ii] Faulkner defeated unseeded Susan Pendo, 6-3, 6-4, in the other semifinal.
Betsy Somerville (age 17) made her debut performance in this, her first professional tournament. A Hawaii School for Girls senior, she won her first-round match in singles, then lost in the second round against #8 Sheri Norris. She teamed up with #6 seeded Alison Winston in doubles defeating Kate Latham and Laurie McGill in the semifinals.
USTA Women’s Circuit of Hawaii — Final Day of the Tournament
The USTA Women’s Circuit tournament organizers couldn’t have asked for a more perfect match up. The championship singles confrontation between seasoned veteran Kate Latham, and next-generation youngster, Stephanie Faulkner drew more than 250 fans.
Kate Latham – Court savvy, and steady, with a random, inconsistent pace. To beat her opponent, she’d need to pull from her 20 years of pro tour experience.
Stephanie Faulkner – A rising star in the USTA Women’s Circuit with, arguably, the biggest forehand in this USTA women’s tournament, she played a strong baseline game. That summer, she’d made it to the Women’s Circuit of Birmingham finals before losing to Susan Sloane, America’s top 18-year-old player.
Based on these quotes after the match, can you guess who won?
I’d like to ban all these young, up-and-coming, girls like Stephanie. They’re running me all over the court.[iii]Kate Latham
Her game was like no other. I couldn’t get used to the lack of pace.[iv]Stephanie Faulkner
USTA Women’s Circuit of Hawaii — Story Lines
As expected, Faulkner’s groundstrokes exploded, intense and deep, but at times lacked consistency when it mattered. Meanwhile, Latham delivered her precision-shots—soft and steady.[v]
Latham won the first set 7-6, Faulkner the second 6-1. In the decisive set, momentum on her side, Faulkner was up 3-1. But Latham wasn’t ready to give up. The veteran pro composed herself, winning the last 5 games to take the match and the $1,400 first-place prize money.[vi]
USTA Women’s Circuit of Hawaii — Local Gal Makes it to Doubles Finals!
Hawaii’s USTA women’s tennis had its own up-and-coming junior player in Betsy Somerville, who teamed up with Alison Winston from California. In the doubles finals, they lost to Californians Elizabeth Evans and Susan Pendo, 6-4, 6-7, 6-2.
Considering they had never played together before this tournament, Betsy and Alison made a good showing! Betsy’s analysis: “Yes, we had a good run, and [it] helped me believe that I could compete at a level higher than the juniors.”
[i] “Waialae Iki to Host Women Tennis Pros,” Honolulu Star-Bulletin & Advertiser, September 1, 1985.
[ii] Jack Wyatt, “Faulkner Struggles Past Unranked Foe,” Honolulu Star-Bulletin, October 5, 1985.
[iii] Jack Wyatt, “Wily Latham Upsets Aussie in Tennis Finals,” Honolulu Star-Bulletin, October 7, 1985.