Even with a minimal amount of experience, virtually every tennis coach has had to occasionally serve as a line judge at a dual meet or Saturday tournament. It always involves a player who feels he/she has been cheated and invokes the right to get a third party to overrule a line call if necessary. Far too often, there is nobody around to help out; thus the coach finds himself at the net post. It is not a pleasant task in that the coach may be calling lines for and against his own player. This can be a bit nerve-wracking but it is certainly necessary in too many instances.

In a faintly similar situation, this is how Vince Preuthun got into line judging and by extension into tennis match umpiring.  He was watching the USTA Nationals in Kalamazoo in August 1981 when he spotted Bob Wood. “I saw him working as a linesperson and thought how cool that must have been,” says Vince. “It turns out he was scared the whole time to make a mistake since they had had no training on the technique of calling baselines.”

Two years later, Vince went back to Kalamazoo to witness Bryce Korowin --a former Trenton High School player who at the time was playing for Western Michigan --preparing to be a linesperson. Bryce pointed out the guy who was in charge of recruiting lines people. Vince found himself on the court for the Boys 16 Nationals semifinals.

At the time, Vince was also the Trenton High School coach. He had taken over from Hall of Famer Tony Malinowski after Tony wrapped up 39 years at the post. Trenton was a strong and established program that didn’t diminish in success during Vince’s tenure. During his ten years at the helm, his boys won seven regionals and qualified for final competition an eighth time. His Trojans won seven league titles while Vince competed against while learning from Hall of Famers Ward Olson and Stan Noland, both Monroe coaches.

It was Stan who cajoled Vince into attending his first MHSTeCA board meeting at Bill Oliver’s Lodge in Cadillac in 1985. He must have come highly recommended because Bob Wood and Tiger Teusink, in turn, talked Vince into taking over the Top Ten rankings.

In those days, it was a more arduous task in that there was no source of communication other than the telephone which would ring off the proverbial hook on Sunday nights. Then Vince would have to compile the results, type them up, copy them at school the next day, and drop them off at the post office. Comparatively speaking, those were dinosaur days.

But Vince kept at it for an astonishing 36 years. To be sure, he saw some welcome changes in the procedure but he has offered amazing continuity in a task that had to be same-old after such a long time.

Moreover, he offered a unique expertise at board meetings in terms of rules. That’s because In 1985, he was able to connect with the Chief Umpire of the Cincinnati ATP event in August and worked through the finals of his first pro tournament. This experience opened the door to other events: Indian Wells, Miami, three Davis Cups, and a Federation Cup.

Thus, when his high school coaching door closed, the college officiating door opened even wider. After retiring from Trenton High School in 2009, Vince was free to “work” the Division 1 NCAA finals around the country as well as the Big Ten, ACC, and SEC Conference championships. He has been the assignor of officials in Southeast Michigan since the mid-1990s.

Quite obviously, the man knows the rules, something that is valuable in a roomful of high octane coaches who think they are the experts. Yes, it is clear that Michigan high school tennis does not strictly follow USTA guidelines but Vince offered a fascinating perspective. After all, this is a man who was line judging the famous U.S. Open match between Jimmy Connors and Aaron Krickstein.

Indeed, Vince is unique amidst our board members. Moreover, he faithfully did it for almost four decades. That’s truly distinguished service.

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