Butch Buchholz stepping down as SE tournament chairman
One of South Florida's most prominent tennis leaders is about to step out of the spotlight.
Butch Buchholz, the founder and tournament chairman of the Sony Ericsson Open, is leaving his post following the 2010 tournament to pursue other opportunities. Buchholz has been the heart and (tanned) face of the Key Biscayne tournament for a quarter century.
``It's time,'' Buchholz said at his Coral Gables office on Monday. ``I don't want to be just a figurehead handing out trophies. I'm going to be 70 years old soon, and I stayed five years longer than I had planned. This just feels like the right time to move on. I feel at peace because I'm leaving the tournament in very capable hands, with [tournament director] Adam Barrett and the same staff we've had in place a long time.''
It was Buchholz's vision and perseverance that led to the creation of one of the world's biggest and most prestigious tournaments. A former player and executive director of the ATP, Buchholz dreamed of creating a combined men's and women's event, and his tournament was the first outside the Grand Slams to offer equal prize money to male and female players.
Many players and fans consider the Key Biscayne event the fifth slam because of its all-star cast of players, the 12-day format and first-class facilities and hospitality. Players have voted the event the ATP Tournament of the Year nine of the past 11 years, and the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour named it the top tournament in 1995 and 2004.
The Sony Ericsson Open draws more than 290,000 fans annually to the Tennis Center at Crandon Park.
``I don't think enough can be said for what Butch has done for he sport of tennis and for the Sony Ericsson Open,'' said Fernando Soler, senior vice president and managing director of IMG Tennis Worldwide, which owns the event. ``He built it into one of the world's premier tennis events.''
Buchholz said he is looking forward to watching the Key Biscayne event ``as a spectator with no worries,'' and also wants to spend more time with his family. But he stressed he is not retiring. Not even close.
``This is just a new part of my life, and I have other projects I want to work on,'' he said.
He will continue to chair the tournament in Buenos Aires and the Pilot Pen tournament in New Haven, Conn. He plans to become even more involved with First Serve, a charitable arm of the USTA that empowers underprivileged youth through tennis. The program, which he chairs, is expanding from 19 cities to 45 next year. He also is on the executive board of the International Tennis Hall of Fame.
And perhaps his most passionate project of all at the moment is his quest to change the Davis Cup format and make it a two-week event, more like soccer's World Cup and golf's Ryder Cup.
``There is a debate about the Davis Cup and how it fits into today's sports world, and I'd like to be part of the debate and part of the solution,'' said Buchholz, who played on the U.S. Davis Cup team from 1958 to '60. ``It's time to reassess the format and see if there is something that would be more appealing, more accessible to more fans and television.''
And when Buchholz gets an idea in his head, he doesn't let it go.
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