Dave Haggerty has been devoted to the game of tennis as far back as he can remember. Currently first vice president of the United States Tennis Association (USTA), the Pennington resident spent his childhood trying to keep up with his older brother and their father, who was the director of tennis at Trenton’s Cadwalader Park for 17 years.
“I could barely see over the net,” Mr. Haggerty recalls. “But I knew I wanted to be a professional tennis player.”
Mr. Haggerty won’t be taking on Roger Federer, Novak Djokovich, or any other tennis superstars at the U.S. Open this week and next. But he is on the scene at the complex in Queens. Since retiring from a business career that included top positions with the sports gear companies Prince, Dunlop, and Head USA/Penn Racquet Sports two years ago, Mr. Haggerty has been volunteering his unique combination of tennis knowledge and business expertise to the USTA.
His position has provided Mr. Haggerty the thrill of hitting with some of tennis’ greatest names, including Andre Agassi, Mr. Djokovich, and Jim Courier. He was recently inducted into the Middle States Hall of Fame, which cited his “relentless pursuit of continued excellence in the tennis world and the immeasurable impact he has had on the game.”
“I love it,” he said during a recent conversation at Small World Coffee. “I travel to all the Grand Slam events. I go to meetings and exchange views with people on my favorite subject.”
Mr. Haggerty, a 55-year-old father of five, grew up in Morrisville, Pa., just across the river from Trenton. He played tennis at Pennsbury High School, losing only three matches in four years and becoming a member of the school’s Athletic Hall of Fame. He attended George Washington University on a tennis scholarship, earning a business degree. Five years ago, he was inducted into the University’s Hall of Fame. After graduation, Mr. Haggerty went to Europe and played on the Dutch Satellite Circuits for a few months. Though he picked up his first world ranking, he knew it was time to make other plans.
“I knew I was good, but I realized that there was so much talent out there,” he said. “I was at the top of my possibilities, but it wasn’t enough.”
Mr. Haggerty came home and took the job as director of tennis at Hamilton Tennis Club, managing six pros, operating the tennis shop, and overseeing 18 indoor and outdoor courts. Among his clients was Jack Murray, who happened to be president of Prince. One day, after a morning session, Mr. Murray pulled Mr. Haggerty aside.
“He said, ‘If you ever get tired of what you’re doing, give me a call,’” Mr. Haggerty recalled. “So I waited until noon — it was a 6 a.m. lesson — and I called.”
He joined Prince and stayed 14 years, working his way up from integrating new products to become vice president of marketing and sales and general manager. Next, Mr. Haggerty worked for Dunlop, spending five years as president of Dunlop Maxfli Slazenger Sports; then moved on to become chairman, CEO and president of Head USA/Penn Racquet Sports.
A few years ago, Mr. Haggerty read an article about the National Junior Tennis and Learning of Trenton’s (NJTLT) plans to revamp the tennis courts in Cadwalader Park, the same courts on which he had learned the game. Having recently begun volunteering for the organization, he immediately started talking to officials with the organization about how he could help. “They said they needed someone to open doors,” he says. “And I knew just where to start — with Albert Stark.”
Mr. Stark, the attorney, had been a client of Mr. Haggerty’s when he was the pro at Hamilton Tennis Club. Mr. Haggerty contacted his old friend, and together they came up with a fundraising plan for the Cadwalader courts. The City of Trenton kicked in a substantial share. Before long, six courts had been resurfaced.
“We ended up with the largest junior tennis facility in the country,” Mr. Haggerty said with obvious pride. “It has fourteen 36-foot courts, which is more than anywhere in the U.S. The other seven can be used for adults as well. And the 36-foot courts will also be used, eventually, for senior citizens. So it’s a great multi-generational facility, which works so well because many of the caregivers for the kids are their grandparents. They’ll be able to hit with them on these courts.”
Many champions began their tennis careers playing in public parks, a fact that Mr. Haggerty regards as significant. “Tennis is looked at as an elitist sport, but it really isn’t,” he said. “That’s why Cadwalader Park is so important. It can attract a more diverse audience. We want tennis to look like America.”
The NJTLT will honor Mr. Haggerty at its spring gala event next March for his efforts in getting the Cadwalader Park courts back into shape. While he is clearly enthused about his work for the USTA and the opportunities it provides to hobnob with tennis greats, he is equally energized by the impact that volunteering for the Trenton organization has had.
“I’ve been very fortunate in my career,” Mr. Haggerty said. “But many of my management techniques evolved from sports, especially tennis. You learn life skills, honesty, and integrity. You follow your own lines.”