For The Country Club of Asheville tennis program, the past, present, and future are bright

Young Athletes abound at McConnell Golf Clubs. Lately, The Country Club of Asheville, in particular, has garnered recognition for its impact on junior tennis in the South. That’s thanks in large part to the efforts of its Director of Tennis, Bill Barber, but also to top-notch facilities.

When Barber came to CCA in 2000, he brought with him a wealth of world-class playing experience and a pedigree that included nearly three years on the ATP tour — where he was ranked in the top 250 in the world — four years playing collegiately at UCLA and a junior experience that once saw Bill ranked among the top 20 junior players in the U.S.

At CCA, Bill started building a junior tennis program from the ground up. He initiated both after-school and summer programs, and the structure was rigorous but lighthearted. “The path to success in junior tennis is a long one, so there has to be fun along the way,” Barber says. “We don’t expect every junior to be a top state tennis player but we want to provide them with the tools to get them there if they desire.”

His attitude is contagious. “Bill Barber combines his wealth of tennis knowledge and his non-stressful, but supportive teaching style,” says Barbie Haynes, a longtime CCA member and mother of three junior players. “It has encouraged a love of tennis in my children.”

Of course, a first-class pedigree thrives in an outstanding setting. CCA built its state-of-the-art indoor facility in 2005, allowing members to practice and play year round — and particularly helping propel the junior program to the next level. Eight lit Har Tru clay courts sit surrounded by tall pines. And a pair of deco turf courts — an identical surface and color as those at Flushing Meadows, where the world’s best compete every year at the U.S. Open — give CCA’s indoor tennis facility a big-time feel and playability.

“The junior tennis program is a big reason that we belong to CCA,” says Lee Anne Kelley. Her son, Ben, is a tennis team member at Presbyterian College, which she credits to “the coaching he received in the junior program.” It’s about more than collegiate success, though. “We have all formed lasting, lifelong friendships with the parents and juniors who have participated in tennis. Best of all, we are engrossed in a sport that we can all enjoy as a family.”

Indeed, more than a decade since the completion of CCA’s indoor facility, the club’s junior players have seen increasing success on both the junior and college circuit. CCA has produced one junior ranked No. 1 in the South (an eight-state region), six juniors ranked No. 1 in the state in their respective age divisions, one high school state championship boys team, two state runner-up high school girls teams, and three state high school individual champions.

Barber’s history as a junior champion makes his on-the-road wisdom all the more valuable to CCA’s junior standouts. “Bill and Spencer [Mai, Barber’s assistant professional] provide priceless leadership to the program,” says Anne Roegner, who has two tennis-playing sons, Ryan and Blake. “The program has given our boys confidence, ploys, and focus — skills that will continue to serve them for the rest of their playing lives.”

Currently, CCA has young men and women playing collegiate men’s and women’s tennis at UNC, UNC-Wilmington, Appalachian State, and Presbyterian College. Not to mention the numerous juniors playing club tennis at their various universities. “It is great to see all of those kids continue their tennis careers at the collegiate level and be able to benefit from athletic scholarships,” Barber says. “They worked incredibly hard for many years.”

A younger group of tennis players are carrying on the club’s tradition of excellence. Adrienne Haynes, 16, and Anne’s son Ryan Roegner, 15, are ranked as top players in the state and among the Top 75 players in the nation. Both have the potential to play at the collegiate level.

Mary Victoria Young, now 11, and Bill’s own son, 10-year-old Xander Barber, were both ranked No. 1 in the state for the 10-and-under division. Their achievement has set CCA junior records, setting a high bar for future players. “Only time will tell,” Barber says. “But with hard work and a lot of fun, anything is possible.”